|Gonzales: Crucible of the
by Garland R. Lively
Gonzales, Texas is the current county seat of Gonzales County and is located at the confluence of the Guadalupe and San Marcus Rivers. It was surveyed by James Kerr and established as the capital of De Witt's Colony in 1825, being named after Rafael Gonzales, governor of Coahuila and Texas. "Remember the Alamo" became known as the catchword phrase of the Texas Revolution and is known nation wide as the rallying cry of Texans during their struggle for independence. Few however, outside the state of Texas realize the significant role that the small community of Gonzales and it's citizens played during Texas's struggle for independence from Mexico.
The armed conflict of Texas Revolution began with the battle of Gonzales in October 1835 and concluded with the battle of San Jacinto on 21 April 1836. There were earlier clashes between the Mexicans and groups of Texas colonists beginning as early as 1826 during the Fredonian Rebellion. Additional conflicts occurred in 1832 at the battle of Velasco, and at the Battle of Nacogdoches. These conflicts were the result of deep seated differences in the social and political viewpoints of the Mexicans and the Anglo-American colonists of Texas. Further misunderstandings by the Mexicans were aggravated by mistrust of United States' intentions in Texas. In 1834 when General Antonio Lopez de San Antonio rescinded the 1824 constitution and declared that Mexico was not ready for a democracy, making himself a dictator, the Texans were caught up in the Federalist opposition to Santa Anna's Centralists government. All of these preceding events led to the decisive moment at Gonzales in October of 1835, when the citizens opposed the Mexican Army with an armed insurrection. While the previous conflicts had been quickly resolved the "Battle of Gonzales" provided the spark that ignited the flames of the smoldering Texas Rebellion.
After crushing opposition in Zacatecas, Santa Anna devoted his efforts on the rebellious Texans. On 25 September 1835, General Martin Perfecto de Cos with a force of about 500 Mexican soldiers landed at Copano Bay and marched towards San Antonio. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had ordered General Cos, his brother in law, to invade Texas and reinforce the Mexican garrisons at Refugio and Goliad and to secure the port of Capano. After securing the coastal region, General Cos was to proceed to San Antonio. Santa Anna intended to quietly gather a large force of Mexican soldiers and crush the rebellion.
In October 1835, General Santa Anna ordered General Joaquin Ramirez y Sesma to march to San Antonio with 4 infantry battalions and 1 artillery battalion to reinforce General Cos. Sesma encountered great difficulty in obtaining supplies for his force and by the time he finally reached Laredo on 27 December 1835 with only 1,500 poorly equipped and poorly supplied troops, General Cos had already retreated from San Antonio.
The Texans had learned in advance of Santa Anna's plans when John J. Linn of Victoria had warned of a pending invasion as early as July 1835. When the Texans learned of Cos' invasion, Stephen F. Austin formed the Committee for Safety and Correspondence and called for the immediate establishment of military units to offer armed resistance.
In face of the mounting unrest, Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea, Commandant of Mexican Forces in Texas, had demanded that the Texans at Gonzales return the small six pound bronze cannon that Ramon Musquiz, upon a request from Green De Witt, had provided James Tumlinson on 10 March 1831 for defense against hostile Indians. The cannon had been provided upon the stipulation that it would be returned upon request. Alcalde, Andrew Ponton and Wiley Martin, a local official, refused to return the cannon and put out a call to other Texans to help defend the cannon. Colonel Ugartechea then dispatched Corporal Casimiro De Leon and five soldiers of from the Second Company of the San Carlos de Parras Regiment to confiscate the cannon. Corporal De Leon camped near the home of Mrs. Sarah De Witt, widow of Green De Witt on the opposite bank of the river. The people of Gonzales opposed returning the cannon and met with Alcalde Andrew Ponton and they decided to offer armed resistance against the Mexicans. Capatin Albert C. Martin raised a small company of 18 volunteers that later became known as the "Old Eighteen."
The members of the "Old Eighteen" were Captain Albert Martin, Jacob C. Darst, Winslow Turner, W.W. Arrington, Graves Fulchear, George W. Davis, John Sowell, James Hinds, Thomas Miller, Valentine Bennet, Ezekiel Williams, Simeon Bateman, J. D. Clements, Almeron Dickinson, Benjamin Fuqua, Thomas Jackson, Charles Mason, and Almon Cottle. By the third day the Texans fearing that Corporal De Leon would be reinforced decided to capture De Leon's squad before he could reinforced. The Texans crossed the river and proceeded towards De Leon's camp where they found his squad resting with their weapons leaning against a tree. When the Mexicans discovered that the Texans were present they scrambled for their weapons but Martin's men raised their rifles and De Leon surrendered. One of De Leon's soldiers managed to reach the horses and raced away towards San Antonio. Corporal De Leon and the rest of his men were marched back to Goliad and held as prisoners of war. Knowing that the escaped soldier would result in reinforcements, Captain Martin dispatched Graves Fulchear and two others to maintain watch on the San Antonio Road. Corporal De Leon and his squad were detained at Gonzales for 3 or 4 days, then on 26 September 1835 they were released to return to San Antonio with a letter from Alcalde Ponton to Politico Ramon Musquiz. The cannon was then buried in George Washington Davis' peach orchard and the land plowed and smoothed over to conceal its location. Ponton to Musquiz:
"Gonzales Sept 26th 1835. Excellent Sir. I received an order purporting to have come from you for a certain piece of Ordnance which is in this place. It happened that I was absent an so was the remainder part of the Ayuntamto when your dispatch arrived in consequence the men who bore sd dispatch were necessarily detained untill to day for an answer. This is a matter of delicasy to me nor do I know without further information how to act this cannon was as I have always been informed given in perpetuity to this Town for its defense against the Indians. The dangers which existed at the time we received this cannon still exist and for the same purposes it is still needed here---our common enemy is still be dreaded or prepared against. How or in what manner such arms are appropriated throughout the country I am as yet ignorant but am led to believe that dippositions of this nature should be permanent at least as long as the procuring cause exists. I must therefore I hope be excused from delivering up the sd cannon untill I have obtained more information on the subject matter. At least untill I have an opportunity of consulting the chief of this department on the subject---as well to act without precipitation---as to perform strictly and clearly my duty, and I assure you, that if, after a mature deliberation on the subject, I find it be my duty & in justice to your self---I obligate my self to comply with your demands---and will without delay send the cannon to you. God & Liberty--- Andrew Ponton, Alcalde"
After learning of the Texan's resistance, Colonel Ugartechea sent about 100 dragoons under the command of Lieutenant. Francisco de Castaneda to seize the cannon by force if necessary and arrest Alcalde Ponton and any others who offered resistance. Lieutenant Castaneda's dragoons departed San Antonio on 27 September 1835 and while enroute, he encountered Corporal De Leon and his men who had recently been released and were on their way to San Antonio with a message from Alcalde Ponton. De Leon warned Castaneda that the Texan forces numbered about 200 and were growing daily. Originally, only eighteen men constituted the Gonzales defense, but Matthew Caldwell was dispatched to the other settlements to recruit reinforcements. The Gonzales volunteers erected a breastworks on the river just below the ferry crossing and began preparation to defend Gonzales. On 25 September 1835 George Washington Davis the secretary of the Gonzales Committee of Safety sent out the following dispatch to Stephen F. Austin at San Felipe:
"I am directed by the Committee of Safety of Gonzales to address you for the purpose of procuring immediate assistance to repel an expected attack of the enemy. The circumstances which influence us to this measures are these: A demand at the insistence of Ugartechea, has been made for a piece of cannon, which has been in this town upwards of four years. This cannon is not needed in Bexar, for they have eighteen pieces there, all unmounted, besides those which they have mounted; this piece was given to us unconditionally, as we are informed, for the defense of the colony. From every circumstance and from information, we are justified in believing that this demand is only made to get a pretext to make a sudden inroad attack upon this colony for marauding and other purposes."
"The Alcalde, with the approbation of the people, has refused to deliver up the cannon; and we are satisfied that as soon as Colonel Ugartechea is informed of the fact, he will immediately send a force against this colony at least , thinking us to weak to resist him. We therefore earnestly request you to send what force you can collect immediately to our assistance. You need make no delay about provision, for we have plenty at your service. The time we think is most pressing, and the occasion most urgent."
Austin sent the following response:
San Felipe de Austin, September 29th,1835.
"The Committee of the Jurisdiction of Austin has received the communication directed to the Committee of Safety of Mina by you, in the name of the people of Gonzales, under date of the 25th inst. stating that Colonel Ugartechea had made a demand for the piece of cannon at that place, and that the people are justified in believing that this demand is only made to get a pretext to make a sudden inroad and attack upon that colony for marauding and other purposes;" in consequence of which those people request assistance to aid in repelling an attack should one be made."
"The present movement of the people of Texas are of a popular and voluntary character in defense of their constitutional rights which are threatened by military invasion of an unconstitutional character. The people are acting on the defensive, and therefore, there cannot be a doubt, that it was correct in the people of Gonzales, under this principle, to detain the piece of cannon which was given to them by the authorities of a constitutional government to defend themselves and the country if necessary."
"On this principle the people of this, and of every other section of the country, as for as this committee is informed, are ready to fly at a moment's warning to the defense of those people should they be attacked. Companies of volunteers have already marched, and more are in readiness, should they be needed, to repel an attack."
"This committee beg leave to suggest that inasmuch as the position taken by the country up to the present, is purely defensive, it is very important to keep this principle constantly in view, and to avoid making attacks unless they should be necessary as a measure of defense."
S. F. Austin Chairman of Committee.
On 29 September 1835 Captain Robert M. Coleman arrived with thirty mounted men from Bastrop with John Tumlinson as his first lieutenant. The cannon was retrieved and blacksmiths, John Sowell and Dick Chisholm, repaired the spiked cannon and mounted it on a broad tired four wheeled cotton wagon owned by Eli Mitchell. The blacksmiths also fashioned shot for the cannon by cutting up chains and melting and forging cannon balls from all the scrap iron they could find. Noah Smithwick describes the preparations:
"We brushed the old cannon scoured it out, and mounted it on old wooden trucks - transverse sections of trees with holes in the centers, into which were inserted wooden axles - and christened it "the flying artillery," making merry over it as if it were some holiday sport we were planning for. We had no ammunition for our "artillery," so we cut slugs of bar iron and hammered them into balls; ugly looking missiles they were I assure you, but destined to "innocuous desuetude,""
By late afternoon on 29 September 1835 Castaneda arrived within several miles of the Guadalupe River where he established his camp and sent messengers forward to the river to request a meeting with Alcalde Ponton. The messengers returned and informed Castaneda that Alcalde Ponton was out of town. The following morning on 30 September 1835, Lieutenant Castaneda appeared on the bank of the Guadalupe and again requested a meeting with Alcalde Ponton to deliver a message from General Ugartechea. . Regidor Joseph D. Clements and Captain Albert Martin assembled on the opposite bank and Albert Martin informed Castaneda that Alcalde Ponton was not in town. Martin and Clementst allowed Castaneda to have a courier swim across the river and deliver the dispatches to them, which he did immediately. Martin read the message which ordered the Alcalde to deliver the cannon or it would be taken by force. Martin responded to Castaneda that if he wanted the cannon he could "Come and Take It." Regidor Clements sent the following message to Lieutenant Castaneda a copy of which was later posted in the plaza of Gonzales:
"Gonzales Sept 30th 1835. Sir. Owing to the absence of the alcalde the duty has devolved upon me of answering the communication directed to the Alcalde of this Town demanding agin the cannon which is in this Town as well as in answer to your note wishing to open negociation on the subject. In answer to the first demand made for the sd cannon The Alcalde espressed his coubts of what was strictly his duty in the matter, and wished to consult the Political chief of this Department before he decided possitively in the case and fanally---This rigor Priveledg of consulting our chief seems is denied us the only answer I can therefore give youis that I cannot now will not deliver to you the cannon agreeable to my notions of peopriety---And these are also the sentiments of all the members of this Ayuntamiento who are now present. The sd cannon is now in this Town and if force it from us we must submit---We are weak and few in numbers but will nevertheless contend for what we believe to be just principles. God and Liberty Joseph D. Clements Regigor. Addressed: Franco Castenada, En el llano en frente de Gonzales."
Still hoping to avoid armed conflict and unable to cross the river, Castaneda established a camp about 300 yards from the Guadalupe on a small hill known as De Witt‘s Mound near Mrs. De Witt's home. Castaneda knew that he could not force a crossing because his route was blocked by high waters and the Gonzales Volunteers. The Texans also had hidden the ferry boat in the swamps of the river bottom. Castaneda decided to remain in camp and await the Alcalde's return. Castaneda was joined at his camp by Doctor Lancelot Smithers who had been sent by Colonel Ugartechea to act as a negotiator between the Mexicans and the Gonzales volunteers in hopes of avoiding armed conflict.
On 30 September 1835, following Captain Martin's contact with Castaneda he dispatched the following message by couriers to San Felipe and the settlements of the Lavaca and Navidad river valleys:
"Fellow Citizens of St. Philipe & the Lavaca. Gonzales Sept. 30th 1835. A detachment of Mexican forces from Bejar, amounting to about one hundred and fifty men, are encamped opposite us; we expect an attack momently. Yesterday we were but 18 strong, to day 150 & and forces constantly arriving. We wish all the aid & despatch that is possible to give us that we may take up soon our line of march for Bejar and drive from our country all the Mexican forces. Give us all the aid & dispatch that is possible. respectfully yours Captain Albert Martin, R. M. Coleman Capt., J.H. Moore Capt. [Addressed] Fellow Citizens of St. Philipe and the Lavaca"
While Castaneda awaited the alcalde's return, reinforcements continued to stream into Gonzales. By 2 October 1835 the ranks of the Texan force at Gonzales had swelled to about 160 volunteers. Captain Martin was no longer in command and the force was now commanded by Colonel John Henry Moore and Colonel Joseph W. E. Wallace. Scouts dispatched by the Texans, soon located Castaneda's camp.
Sarah Seeley and Evaline De Witt fashioned a flag for the Gonzales volunteers from Evaline De Witt's white wedding dress on which they painted a crude cannon under a single star, with the words "Come and Take it The ferry boat was retrieved and returned to it's landing on the Texan side of the river.
Later a Coushatta Indian who had observed the Texans preparations in Gonzales, entered Castaneda's camp and informed him that the Texans now numbered 140 and that their forces were growing daily. Knowing that he could not cross the defended ford and fearing an attack, Castaneda abandoned his camp and searched for an unguarded ford on the Guadalupe. On 1 October 1835 he pitched camp on the west bank of the Guadalupe River about seven miles upstream on land belonging to Ezekiel Williams where the Mexicans feasted on Ezekiel Williams watermelons.
Learning of Castaneda's movement, the Texans led by John Henry Moore, crossed over to the west bank of the Guadalupe at 08:00 P. M. during the night of 1 October 1835 with their cannon in tow by two teams of oxen and formed up to conduct a council of war near Mrs. De Witt's home. The Reverend W. P. Smith, a Methodist preacher from Rutersville delivered a prayer and a patriotic address. The Texans then marched upriver towards Castaneda's new camp. Early the next morning on 2 October 1835, in the darkness and fog, a barking dog alerted Castaneda‘s mounted pickets and a chaotic exchange of fire ensued during which it was difficult to distinguish friend from foe.
By sunrise the fog was still so thick that vision was restricted to less than one hundred yards. Moore's men were in the open in the middle of William's watermelon patch and was attacked by about 40 of Castaneda's cavalry led by Lieutenant Gregorio Perez. Moore repulsed the Mexican charge and then ordered his men to assume positions in the tree line along the wooded river bottom to wait for the fog to lift. The Texans were later alerted by the sounds of an approaching horse with it's rider shouting, "Don't shoot." The Texans discovered that the rider was Doctor Lancelot Smithers who claimed he had been pressed into service by Colonel Ugartchea at San Antonio to provide medical support to Lieutenant Castaneda's command. Smithers informed Moore that Lieutenant Castaneda had no desire to fight the Texans. Colonel Moore conducted a council of war and it was decided that should either surrender at discretion or fight. Smithers was dispatched to relay Moore's decision to Castaneda. Smithers quickly returned and informed Moore that Castaneda requested a parley.
By now the fog had cleared and the Texans could clearly see the Mexican cavalry drawn up in a defensive triangle on a small hill about 400 yards from the Texan position. Colonel Moore sent Colonel Wallace and Lieutenant Mason forward to negotiate the surrender with Castaneda. They met with Castaneda on horseback in a nearby field where Castaneda demanded to know why the Texans had attacked him without provocation. Wallace informed him that the men were fighting to retain the cannon and protect their rights as established by the Constitution of 1824. Castaneda then assured Wallace that he was personally opposed to the policies of Santa Anna and that he had no desire to fight Texans, but only wanted to obey his orders to reclaim the cannon. Wallace then invited Castaneda to join the Texans in their fight for the federal Constitution of 1824. Castaneda explained that as a professional soldier he was obligated to follow the orders of his superior officers, whether or not he agreed with the policies behind them. Wallace then informed Castaneda that if he failed to surrender the Texans would open fire. At that point negotiations between them broke down, and the two parties returned to their units
When Moore was briefed on Castaneda he launched his attack against Castaneda's forces by having Amaron Dickinson fire the cannon. He then waved his hat and shouted, "Charge em boys , and give em hell." Dickinson again fired the cannon and the Texans rushed forward. Knowing he was outnumbered, and hoping to avoid further conflict, Castaneda ordered his dragoons to retreat towards San Antonio. The skirmish was over in 5 minutes leaving the Texans with only one wounded. The Mexicans are believed to have suffered 1 or 2 dead and several wounded. The Texans captured most of Castaneda's camp equipment and the Texans found several crippled animals and blood trails. Despite Castaneda's efforts to avoid bloodshed the brief skirmish between the Texans and the Mexicans marked the beginnings of the armed revolt. The Texans who suffered one wounded, returned to Gonzales where they feasted on cornbread and barbequed beef and danced in the open air at a large party that lasted well into the night.
When General Cos learned of the armed insurrection at Gonzales he had accelerated his plans to advance to San Antonio and left a small detachment of 27 men at the Bahia Presidio in Goliad under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francisco and another detachment at Fort Lipantitlan on the Nueces River near San Patricio. Captain Nicholas Rodriguez was left at Goliad to guard his supply base because of a shortage of transportation. On 5 October 1835, Cos with an honor guard provided by the Morales Battalion departed Goliad and marched towards San Antonio. When he arrived in San Antonio on 9 October 1835 he reinforced the Mexican garrison there and fortified the town plazas and the Alamo. By this time Cos's forces in San Antonio numbered about 600 troops.
Ben Fort Smith and William Houston Jack raised a company of 50 men at Gonzales and set out to liberate Goliad and Capano from the Mexican Army. Captain George M. Collingsworth raised another company of 40 men from Matagorda then marched to Victoria, picking up additional recruits along the way. Collingsworth reached Victoria on 9 October 1835 where the men ate, rested, and recruited 30 more men from Victoria and Goliad. Collingsworth's company eventually totaled 120 men. When Collingsworth received word that Cos had departed for San Antonio and only left a small detachment to defend Goliad he marched his forces southwestward towards Goliad and that night stopped at Manahuilla Creek where they stopped to rest. Collingsworth dispatched Ira Ingram to scout out the Mexican defenses in Goliad. During their rest Collingsworth was joined by additional men from Refugio. He then moved his company towards Goliad, arriving there at 11:00 P. M. The Texans caught the Mexican garrison by surprise and after a thirty minute battle they had captured the Presidio La Bahia. The Texans had several wounded but none killed. The Texans captured about 100 4 pound cannon balls and and a large store of powder which they badly needed. The Mexicans suffered 3 killed, 7 wounded, and 21 captured. About 20 Mexicans soldiers escaped in the darkness and made it to Fort Lipantitlan from which Cos was informed of the loss of Goliad. During the skirmish only one Texan, Samuel McCulloch was wounded and none killed, McCulloch was hit in the right shoulder by a musket ball which represented the first Texan casualty of the Revolution. The Mexican prisoners were paroled and Captain Phillip Dimmitt with a small company of volunteers was left in charge of the Presidio at Bahia in Goliad.
On 11 October 1835 Stephen F. Austin took command of the volunteer army that had concentrated at Gonzales and made preparations for the siege of Bexar. James Bowie was designated as a Lieutenant. The untrained army had no discipline, little organization, and no logistical arrangements. Men came and went as they pleased, wandering off when hungry or bored, drifting back when inclined. Fearing being caught in the open against the well armed Mexican Cavalry Austin had Noah Smithwick fashion crude lances for his men by converting files into lance heads which he attached to cane poles. Armed with their makeshift lances and mounted on everything from half broke mustangs to mules, Austin formed the "Gonzales Lancers" to protect his light infantry forces. Austin's rag tag "Army of the People" on 13 October 1835 began the march from Gonzales to San Antonio on the San Antonio Road past the Cibolo and Salado Creeks.
During the march to San Antonio Austin dispatched scouts, commanded by Colonel James Bowie to determine if San Antonio could be safely approached. On 27 October 1835 Austin, under the cover of darkness occupied a position in a grove of trees on a bend of the San Antonio River near the old abandoned mission of Nuestra Senora de la Purisma Concepcion. Austin formed his defenses in a large triangle with Captain James Walker Fannin's "Brazos Guards" company on the south and with the small companies of Captains Coleman, Goheen on the north side under the command of James Bowie. Heavy pickets were dispatched and Robert J. Calder was posted as a lookout in the old church tower, while the remainder of the command rested. Cos'scouts had detected the Texan's position and he quickly assembled a force of about 275 men and two cannons and quietly managed to surround the Texans under the cover of darkness and a heavy fog. Just after the sun had risen an advance guard of the Mexican Cavalry arrived. The sentries exchanged fire with them and they withdrew.
Creed Taylor was one of the pickets that first spotted the Mexican advance:
"When we reached the post on the high ground in the direction of the mission, we found Henry Karnes on duty. The fog was very dense and as we came nearer, Karnes was stooping and peering through the gloom as if trying to locate some object. In a low tone he told us to listen, that he believed he heard the sound of hoofs. A few moments later we were fired upon by a large body of Mexican infantry which had silently approached under cover of the fog, and the continued blaze of their guns made a lurid scene. Returning the fire we fell back towards the river bottom. Just before we scampered down the high bank, and while yet exposed to the enemy s fire, Karnes exclaimed "Boys, the scoundrels have shot off my powder horn." "
When the Texans discovered the presence of the Mexicans soldiers they assumed defensive positions in the natural entrenchment of the river bank. When the fog lifted it was apparent that the Texans were surrounded. Colonel Bowie extended his right flank, then ordered the men to clear all the brush located a hundred yards in front of the bank to enable a clear field of fire and had them dig holes in the steep river bank so they could stand in them to fire, then drop back down out of sight to reload. At 08:00 A. M. on the morning of 28 October 1835, General Cos launched his attack with Lieutenant Colonel Jose Maria commanding his infantry forces which were supported by 5 companies of Ugartechea's Cavalry. The Mexicans managed to advance to within 200 yards of the Texan's right flank. A six pound cannon was brought up to within eighty yards of the Texan's defenses and opened fire with grape shot and canister. Bowie urged the men to take careful aim and not waste ammunition. The Mexicans made three repeated attempts to overwhelm the Texans but each time the deadly accurate rifle fire from the Texan's Kentucky rifles broke up the assault. The Mexicans retreated towards San Antonio leaving behind their dead and wounded and the six pound cannon. When the Mexican cavalrymen retreated, Bowie mounted his men and led them in hot pursuit. Pursuing the fleeing enemy closely, the Texans were able to overrun the Mexican cannon and it was pressed into use against its previous owners. Bowie's cavalry pursued the retreating Mexicans right up to the town before withdrawing. The Mexicans lost 67 killed and an unknown number of wounded while the Texans lost only one man killed, Richard Andrew.
Noah Smithwick describes the battle:
"When the fog lifted we found ourselves pretty well surrounded; though the bluff and heavy timber on the west side of the river secured us against attack in the rear. In front was a field piece flanked by several companies of infantry; and across the river, to cut off retreat, were two companies of cavalry - but retreat formed no part of our programme. The Mexicans now opened on us with cannon, but we lay low and their grape and canister crashed through the pecan trees overhead, raining a shower of ripe nuts down on us, and I saw men picking them up and eating them with as little apparent concern as if they were being shaken down by a norther. Bowie was a born leader, never needlessly spending a bullet or imperiling a life. His voice is still ringing in my deaf old ears as he repeatedly admonished us, "Keep under cover, boys, and reserve your fire; we haven't a man to spare;" and, had he been obeyed, not a man would we have lost. The Mexicans moved up till they came within range of Fannin's men, when, upon the Texans opening fire, they halted and begun forming for a charge. Seeing this, Bowie ordered Coleman to the support of Fannin, and, in executing the movement, the foolhardiness of some of our men caused the only casualty of the engagement. We scarcely waited, really, for orders, but broke for Fannin's position. Excited and eager to get a shot, some of the boys mounted the bank and cut across, exposed to the fire of the whole Mexican army. They got there before we did, who went around, but the first man I saw as I came around was Dick Andrews, lying as he had fallen, great drops of sweat already gathering on his white, drawn face, and the life blood gushing from a hole in the left side, just below the ribs. I ran to him and attempted to raise him. "Dick," I cried, "are you hurt?" "Yes, Smith," he replied, "I'm killed; lay me down." I laid him down and put something under his head. It was the last time I saw him alive. There was no time for sentiment. There was the enemy, outnumbering us four to one, charging our position, so I picked up my gun and joined my comrades."
On 30 October 1835 Captain Dimmit dispatched his adjutant, Ira Westover, with a small company of 35 volunteers, including John J. Linn, James Kerr, and James Powers, to capture Fort Lipantitlan, a wood and earthen fortification, about 12 miles from San Patricio on the Nueces River. The Commander, Captain Nicoles Rodriguez with a company of Mexicans were defending the fort and harassing Texan settlers in the area. When Westover reached Refugio he was joined by 14 settlers and by the time he arrived at the Nueces River his forces numbered about 70. When Westover reached a ranch about 5 miles below San Patricio he learned that Captain Rodriguez and his main force of about 85 men had positioned themselves on the road near Refugio to intercept the Texans. After learning that Rodriguez's main force was not at Fort Lipantitlan, he crossed the Nueces River in canoes on 3 November 1835. He left several men to guard his river crossing then proceeded to within about seventy yards of the fort with the intent of launching his attack the following morning. While waiting he intercepted two Texans that were en route to the fort. One of the men, James O'Riley, volunteered to enter the fort and attempt to convince the Mexicans to surrender. The Mexicans accepted and Westover occupied the fort without firing a shot.
At 3:00 A. M. on the following morning, 4 November 1835, Westover dismantled the earthen breastworks, abandoned the fort. and attempted to move his men back across the Nueces River in canoes. While crossing the river, Rodriguez's main force appeared on the opposite bank. Westover left 6 of his men to maintain observations of the Mexican force and managed to cross the river downstream and assumed positions in a grove of trees near the Mexicans. They engaged the Mexicans in a battle that lasted about 30 minutes and killed 28 of them including Rodriguez's second in command Lieutenant Marcellino, who died two days later from his wounds. Westover's only casualty occurred when a musket ball knocked off three fingers on William Bracken's right hand.
Westover had captured two 4 pound cannons at Lipantitlan and intended to transport them back to Goliad, but fearing the Mexicans would launch another attack as they struggled to move the cannons, they decided to dump them in the Nueces River. Before returning to Goliad, Westover and his men spent two days at San Patricio where they were treated like heroes. Since Captain Rodriguez had no physician, he requested that Captain Westover treat his wounded. Westover agreed and the Mexican wounded were treated at San Patricio. Captain Westover extended an invitation to Captain Rodriguez to participate in "another pleasant meeting" but the Mexicans had no stomach to face the Texan rifles again and he declined. Captain Dimmit was disappointed with the results however, as the Mexican leaders and most of the forces had escaped and they soon reoccupied Fort Lipantitlan.
On 18 November 1835, Stephen Austin received notice that he had been appointed as commissioner to the United States and on 24 Nov 1835, Edward Burleson assumed command of the Texas Army and Austin departed for the United States. General Burleson had previously learned that General Cos had dispatched Colonel Ugartechea to Loredo to obtain additional reinforcements for San Antonio. Burleson had instructed had instructed Erastus Smith and his scouts to be on the lookout for Colonel Ugartechea' relief column approaching the city from the south. On 26 November 1835 Smith came galloping into Burleson's camp at full speed and reported a column of Mexicans with pack animals approaching San Antonio about 5 miles to the south.
Rumors quickly spread among the Texan troops that the mules were loaded with gold from Cos's pay chests. Burleson ordered James Bowie and 45 cavalry to delay the Mexicans' progress, and dispatched Colonel William Houston Jack with a hundred Texas infantry troops to follow Bowie and seize the supply train. Bowie soon encountered about 150 Mexican cavalry soldiers who had been sent from San Antonio to escort the mule train. The two cavalry forces confronted each other west of San Antonio and a skirmish developed. Due to the superior size of the Mexican cavalry Colonel Bowie ordered his men to dismount and the Texans assumed positions in ravines near Alazan Creek. The Mexican cavalry charged the Texans three times but each time they were repulsed with considerable loss. The Mexicans then dismounted and sent for reinforcements. General Cos dispatched about 50 Mexican infantry soldiers from the Morales Battalion with an artillery piece to help oppose the Texan attack.
When Colonel Jack heard the firing at Bowie position he marched his men at double time the Bowie's position in the ravines. As he approached to within about 50 yards the Mexicans greeted him with a volley of musket fire. Colonel Jack had marched his men between the Mexican cavalry dismounted in the ravines and the advancing reinforcements. Caught in a crossfire Jack ordered his men to lie down. In the confusion some of Jack's men retreated and joined Bowie in the ravines. Jack then ordered his remaining men to charge the Mexicans. Jack managed to clear the Mexicans from the ravines and they fled the battle field. Jack then rallied his men and charged the other Mexican position. The Mexicans fired their cannon and fell back a few yards and fired again. At this time the Mexican cavalry had rallied and mounted a charge which was broken up and they charged a second time but never came within a 100 yards of the Texans. The infantry then begin to advance and came within twenty yards of Jack, when Bowie came to his aid and James Swisher arrived with additional Texas reinforcements and the Mexicans were forced to retreat to San Antonio, leaving their pack animals behind. The Texans had 4 wounded and 1 missing, while Mexican losses numbered 15 dead and 6 wounded, mostly among the cavalry. When the Texans brought in forty captured pack animals they discovered their prizes carried only grass to feed army animals. The "missing" Texan had fled the battle and was not seen again until he arrived in Gonzales several days later.
After the "Grass Fight," General Burleson decided to postpone the siege of San Antonio due to limited supplies and approaching winter. Burleson proposed withdrawing to Gonzales for the winter and returning in the spring. But when the Texans learned from a Mexican officer they had captured, that the Mexican garrison in San Antonio, Benjamin R. Milam was not willing to withdraw. Benjamin Milam and William Gordon Cooke rallied about 240 Texans willing to engage General Cos' forces in San Antonio. On 5 December 1835 Benjamin R. Milam and Francis W. "Frank" Johnson led the Texas volunteers into the heart of San Antonio, while Burleson and another 400 men scouted and protected the camp and supplies, forcing Cos to keep his men contained in the Alamo and in the city.
At 3:00 A. M. on 5 November 1835 James Clinton Neill began a bombardment of the Mexican positions with his artillery, and supported Milam and Johnson's advance into the city. Milam posted a group of his forces in position to fire on the Alamo hoping to pin down a large number of Mexicans, while he led the main force into the city. Milam divided his forces into two division with the first division commanded by Milam and Major R. C. Morris and the second commanded by Colonel Grant. Milam also had two pieces of artillery commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Franks. Milam rapidly overran Cos' outposts and quickly occupied the outer fringes of the city. Furious house to house fighting erupted as he advanced through the city. The center piece of the Mexican defense was the Church of San Fernando. Its tower dominated the town, and served as both an observation post and an artillery battery. Two small cannon had been with great difficulty mounted on the top of the church. The Mexican could observe Texan movements for miles around, and direct fire at targets as they presented themselves. The tower was the key to taking the town. The church tower could not be taken until the Texans could seize the central plaza and the Texans had to fight their way there though the sturdy adobe houses defended by the Mexicans.
On 7 December 1835 at 12:00 P. M. Henry Wax Karnes led a group of men and using crowbars to force the doors seized one of the principal buildings on Zambrano Row overlooking the plaza after fierce hand to hand fighting. Eventually the Texans battled their way through some of finest houses in San Antonio including the house of the Don Jose Antonio Navarro family and the Veramendi family that were in laws of James Bowie. The Mexicans maintained a considerable resistance during which Deaf Smith was wounded. Mexican resistance began to falter against the relentless advance of the Texans. General Cos ordered his cavalry to attack the Texan camp but they discovered it was too heavily defended by Burleson. That night the Texans, commanded by Cooke captured the Mexican position in the priest house on the main plaza.
On 8 December 1835 Ugartchea returned to San Antonio with additional reinforcements comprised mainly of raw recruits. In response Burleson dispatched another 100 Texans to join Milam in the house to house fighting. During a break in the fighting on 8 December 1835, Ben Milam was standing with Frank Johnson and Henry Karnes near the Veramendi house and observing the church tower with a telescope and was killed by a sniper. The Texans elected Frank Johnson as commander and continued to press onward. They mounted a 12 pound cannon near the plaza and opened fire on the church, smashing the roof. The fire from the Mexicans quickly ceased and Cos abandoned San Antonio and retreated to the Alamo. During his retreat from San Antonio his cavalry force of 185 men rode away and abandoned him. After three days of house to house fighting, the Texans had recaptured the city.
Cos was cramped into the Alamo with over 1,100 troops and as hundreds of camp followers with limited food and ammunition. The following morning at dawn on 9 December 1835 Cos ordered a white flag displayed and sent a party of three officers to negotiate terms of surrender with the Texans. Johnson met with the Mexicans and negotiation continued for twenty hours before they reached an agreement. Cos, knowing his line of retreat was no longer secure and lacking cavalry support knew that he would have to surrender. On 11 December 1835 Cos agreed to the terms and formally surrendered. Under the surrender terms Cos would be permitted to withdraw his troops across the Rio Grande upon his pledge to support the Constitution of 1824 and not to bear arms in Texas again. A few days later Cos departed San Antonio and marched his defeated Army back to the Rio Grande and into Mexico.
The Texans had lost about 30 men but the Mexicans had lost 150 soldiers, mostly from the Morales Battalion that had mounted the main defense of the city. Cos Army had been reduced to 1,105 men, the balance, some 300-400 men, having deserted or been killed. A few days later the Mexican Army marched south, and the Texians, having already occupied all of San Antonio, moved into the Alamo. The capture of San Antonio was a major victory for the Texans, and won at relatively little cost. It was a decisive victory that marked the end of Mexican authority over Texas.
In December 1835 after Austin's "Army of the People" captured the town from the Mexicans most of the Texan volunteers left the Army and returned home. Austin, however, feared the Mexicans would mount a spring offensive to crush the rebellion. Texas defenses at this time consisted of three forts blocking the main approaches from Mexico into Texas: Presidio La Bahía at Goliad and the Alamo at San Antonio. James Walker Fannin, Jr. was appointed to command the small detachment at La Bahia near Goliad, and San Patricio was commanded by Dr. James Grant and Francis W. Johnson. James Clinton Neill was placed in command of the San Antonio garrison at the Alamo because of his artillery experience. The Texans had captured 21 artillery pieces of various caliber and throughout January to fortify the mission fort . With the assistance of chief engineer Maj. Green B. Jameson, Neill installed most of the cannons on the walls of the Alamo. Jameson mounted three 12 pounders on a scaffold in the church, four 4 pounders were on the stockade of the entrenchment in front of the church, 2 cannons were installed on the outside lunette, and 18 pounder was located of the southwest corner of the enclosed area; two 8 pounders were mounted in the center of the west barrier; another 8 pounder was mounted on the northeast corner; and 2 other guns were mounted on a platform near the south end. In additon to mounting the cannons rough parapets were raised to offer some protection to men manning the walls. A log and earth palisade was erected to close a gap in the wall on the south side of the old cemetery in front of the chapel, and a gap which had been made in the northern wall when the Texans besieged the place in December was repaired.
By 17 January 1836, General Sam Houston had assumed command of the Texas Army and had serious doubts about a garrison at the Alamo. He realized that the Alamo was too far from the Texas bases in the east to be supported during a war. On that date he informed Governor Henry Smith that he had dispatched Colonel James Bowie and a company of volunteers to San Antonio and requested permission from governor Henry Smith too demolish the fortifications at the Alamo and remove the cannons and ammunition to Gonzales and Copano. When Bowie arrived on 19 January 1836 he was impressed with Neill's efforts to convert the old mission into a fort.
On 22 January 1836, Colonel Bowie was informed by local Mexicans that Santa Anna was on the border and preparing to launch an invasion of Texas and march on San Antonio. On 27 January 1836, Jose Cassiano arrived at the Alamo and reported to Bowie on details of Santa Anna's forces on the border. On 2 February 1836 after receiving details of Santa Anna advance, Colonel James Bowie sent the following dispatch to Governor Smith:
"The salvation of Texas depends in great measure on keeping Bexar out of the hands of the enemy. It serves as the frontier picquet guard, and if it were in the possession of Santa Anna, there is no stronghold from which to repel him in his march toward the Sabine. Colonel Neill and myself have come to the solemn resolution that we will rather die in these ditches than give it up to the enemy."
On 23 January 1836, Neill wrote to Smith that if he had the teams available to move the cannons and public property he would immediately destroy the fortifications and abandon the Alamo. After receiving Bowie and Neill's dispatches, Smith rejected Sam Houston‘ proposal to abandon the Alamo. The Texans simply had no transport available to move the cannons any distance. Once committed to defending the Alamo Governor Smith directed Lieutenant Colonel William Barrett Travis to proceed with his thirty man cavalry detachment and report to Neill at the Alamo. Travis was reluctant to reinforce Neill and Bowie with such a small force but upon Governor Smith's insistence he obeyed his orders and on 3 February 1836, he arrived at the Alamo. On 8 February 1836, David Crockett arrived with his "Tennessee Mounted Volunteers" providing additional reinforcements to defend the Alamo. The arrival of the respected David Crockett boosted the spirits of the Alamo defenders.
On 14 February Neill discovered that an illness had stricken his family and he departed on furlough back to his family in Bastrop. He left William Travis in command although James Bowie was older and more experienced. Travis was a regular Army officer while Bowie was just a volunteer. Bowie's followers resented the selection of Travis over Bowie and insisted on electing their own leader as was the frontier custom.
Travis complied with their wishes and later declared himself the winner, but struck a compromise with Bowie and allowed him to command the volunteers.
On 25 January 1836, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna conducted a Grand Review of his 6000 Mexican forces at his garrison and crossed the Rio Grande at Matamoros and invaded Texas. His forces soon numbered 8,000. On 2 March 1836 during a meeting of the Convention of 1836 at Washington on the Brazos the Texans formally voted for independence. The convention also appointed Sam Houston as a major general in the Texas Army and designated him as Commander in Chief of all Texas forces. Houston formally assumed command at Gonzales and Austin assumed a purely political role.
Simmering with humiliation after the defeat of General Cos, Santa Anna was determined to continue with his planned spring offensive against Texas and planned on personally leading the invasion force. He began to assemble a large force of Mexican soldiers at Satillo. General Santa Anna fully understood the importance of securing the coastal region of Texas as a supply base for his invasion force. In order for the Mexican Army to sustain itself while advancing from the Rio Grande, they had to control the port of Copano as a Mexican port to enable supplies to be transported to the interior of Texas and eliminate all pockets of opposition to Santa Anna‘s rear. General Juan Jose de Urrea with 250 soldiers of the Cuautla Permanete Cavalry Regiment plus two auxiliary companies marched toward Matamoros while the Yucatan Activo Battalion marched northwards from Tampico to Matamoros. By the time Urrea had assembled all his forces he had nearly 900 soldiers consisting of the following; 320 Infantry troops from the Yucatan, 320 Dragons (mounted infantry or cavalry), 200 men left in Matamoros, and one 4 pound cannon. Santa Anna with a larger force proceeded towards San Antonio. When Urrea linked up with the Yucatan Battalion he swept along the coastal plains with his 550 soldiers towards San Patricio. Santa Anna's strategy wass clear. He intended to capture the base of the Texas triangle at San Patricio and Goliad to secure Matamoros and the coastal plains and advance on San Antonio from the southwest and crush the rebels.
During the invasion of Texas Santa Anna's forces, excluding Urrea's command, were divided into 5 brigades as follows: The First Brigade, commanded by General Ramirez y Sesma, consisting of 1,500 men; The Second Brigade, commanded by General Antonio Gaona, consisting of 2,000 men; The Third Brigade, commanded by General Eugena Tolsa, consisting of 2,000 men; The Fourth Brigade, commanded by General Andrade, consisting of 1,000 cavalry troops.
At the Alamo Travis did not believe that Santa Anna could reach San Antonio before 15 March 1836, and was surprised when his scouts reported his presence on 23 February 1836. Previously Juan N. Seguin, upon growing rumors of a pending invasion had sent his cousin, Blaz Herrera, to observe the border and report on any advance of Santa Anna. When Santa Anna crossed the river on 18 February 1836, Herrera had raced back to San Antonio and warned Seguin. Seguin later met with Travis and Bowie and notified them of Santa Anna's advance. Bowie who was a friend of Seguin accepted the information as fact, but Travis tended to dismiss it at rumor. He did however upon Bowie's urging take certain percautions. Upon his scouts confirmation of Herrera's message he sprang into action.
Travis placed a sentry in the belfry of the San Franando Church and instructed him to ring the bell at the first sight of the approaching Mexican troops. About noon the sentry caught sight of the Mexican Cavalry approaching the heights neat Las Lomas del Alazan Creek. The sentry rung the bell announcing the arrival of Santa Anna's advance forces. Santa Anna had actually arrived on the Medina River on 20 February 1836. He had halted his forces there and allowed them to rest and await his slower Infantry Brigades. During the night of 22 February 1836 he positioned his Delores Cavalry Regiment on the heights to the west overlooking the city.
Travis dispatched Doctor John Sutherland and John William Smith to scout the Laredo Road and report on the presence of the Mexican forces. When the scouts crested the hill they came into full view of the Delores Cavalry Regiment. The Mexicans formed a battle line and the Texans raced back towards the city just as the sentry began to ring the church bell. The scouts reported that 1,200 to 1,500 Mexicans had assembled on the hill. Travis assembled his men and equipment in the main plaza of San Antonio and marched them to the relative safety of the Alamo driving a herd of about 25 cattle with them. The Delores Cavalry Regiment approached with caution, but within an hour the Mexicans were in San Antonio in considerable strength. By late afternoon Santa Anna's Avanguardia Brigade had joined the cavalry in the city. The citizens of San Antonio fled the city in panic and carts loaded with all sorts of household goods clogged the roads leading from San Antonio.
The Alamo erupted into a hive of activity as the Texans frantically prepared their defenses against the approaching Mexican Army. Of the limited forces available to Travis were about 20 local Mexicans who were aquatinted with Colonel Bowie and supported the Texan's cause for independence. Out of the men present about 25 were sick and under the care of Doctor Pollard who was critically short of medicine and medical supplies. Travis assigned David Crockett and his Tennessee Volunteers to defend the weakest section of his defenses consisting of a a wooden picket wall extending from the barracks to the walls of the church. Travis then dispatched Sutherland and Smith to deliver an urgent message to Alcalde Ponton in Gonzales about 75 miles from the Alamo requesting assistance and supplies. Sutherland had been previously injured when his horse fell on him while escaping from the Mexican Cavalry, but he readily agreed to make the difficult ride. Travis' urgent message read:
"Commandancy of Bexar, Feb 23rd. 3 o'clock P.M., 1836, To Andrew Ponton, Judge and Citizens of Gonzales: The enemy in large force is in sight. We want men and provisions. Send them to us. We have 150 men and are determined to defend the Alamo to the last. Give us assistance. W.B. Travis---Col. Commanding. P.S. Send an express to San Felipe with news night and day"
After departing San Antonio about 04:00 P. M. on 23 February 1836, Sutherland and Smith rode hard towards Gonzales. By the time they had rode past Salado Creek about 16 miles, Sutherland's leg was hurting so badly that they were forced to stop and rest when darkness set in. By daylight the next morning on Wesnesday, 24 February 1836, they were back in the saddle and proceeding at a fast pace towards Gonzales where they arrived about 04:PM that afternoon where they alerted the citizens of Gonzales of the urgent needs for reinforcements.
Santa Anna entered San Antono on the afternoon of Tuesday, 23 February 1836, and hoisted a blood red flag signifying that no quarter would be given to the Texans. At the same time he had a bugler sound the call for a parley. Travis who was unfamiliar with Mexican bugle calls, responded by firing a round from his 18 pound cannon. Santa Anna responded by firing 4 cannon rounds into the Alamo. Bowie who was more familiar with Mexican tactics was infuriated at Travis' brash response and dispatched Green Jameson under a flag of truce with a message to Santa Anna explaining that the cannon had been fired before the Texans heard the bugle call and that they wished to parley. Jameson delivered Bowie's message to Colonel Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, Santa Anna's adjutant. Bowie's hopes of an honorable surrender were dashed when Colonel Jose Batres delivered Santa Anna's response that Santa Anna would accept nothing less than surrender at discretion and no terms would be granted.
Additional Texans gathered at the Alamo and Travis sent Captain Albert Martin as his own emissary to meet with the Mexicans. Albert Martin owned a general store in Gonzales and was a veteran of the "Old Eighteen" defenders of Gonzales and the siege of San Antonio. He also met with Santa Anna's adjutant, Colonel Juan Nepomuceno Almonte and requested that he come to the Alamo and meet with Colonel Travis. Almonte refused the offer and demanded an immediate unconditional surrender. Both Travis and Bowie understood that they could not hold the Alamo without reinforcements. Travis dispatched a party of foragers to obtain additional supplies for the garrison and they returned with 80 bushels of corn, a large stock of beans, and 30 head of cattle.
Santa Anna by now had 1,500 men in the vicinity but only two artillery pieces. He dispatched urgent messages to the remainder of his forces to proceed with all haste. The bulk of his artillery was mired in the mud several miles to the south and the First Brigade commanded by Colonel Antonio Gaona was still several days from San Antonio.
Lacking his complete strength and unsure of the strength of the Texans, Santa Anna prepared to lay siege to the Alamo rather than risk an immediate assault. Lacking the resouces to conduct a proper seige he directed his limited artillery to maintain a harassing fire on the Texans to restrict their movements. The Mexicans completed preparations for their artillery batteries and began shelling the Alamo with their artillery on 24 February 1836. On the same day Bowie became seriously ill with pneumonia and Travis assumed full command of the small garrison. That same day hed sent out his famous "Victory or Death" appeal to the people of Texas and all Americans requesting reinforcements and vowing to never surrender. He dispatched Captain Andrew Martin deliver his "Victory or Death" message to Houston at San Felipe.
On 25 February 1836 the Mexican Artillery batteries renewed their shelling of the Alamo early in the morning. Santa Anna crossed the river with the 200 light infantry men (Cazadores) from the Matamoros Infantry Battalion and the Jiminez Infantry Battalion. When he detected a weakness on the southeast side of the Alamo he dispatched his Cazadores to conduct a probe. The Cazadores infiltrated through the nearby village of La Villta to within a few yards of the Alamo and attempted to erect fortifications. The Texans opened fire with their rifles and cannons and by 11:00 A. M. forced the Mexicans to retreat with 2 dead and 5 wounded. Travis then conducted a sortie to burn the village to prevent the Mexicans from using it for cover.
On 27 February 1836, unaware that the Texans had a well, a contingent of Mexicans attempted to dam the canal that was the primary water source for the Alamo. When they were spotted the Texans opened fire on the work party and the Mexican infantry and artillery returned fire. After a brief skirmish the Mexican work party withdrew leaving about 5 dead. Several other skirmishes occurred during the following days.
After departing the Alamo, Albert Martin rode all night and next of the next day and upon departing could hear the cannon fire from Santa Anna's bombardment. Martin arrived in Gonzales late in the afternoon of 25 March 1836. Alcalde Ponton dispatched Lancelot Smithers who had arrived in Gonzales the previous day with an estimate of the Mexican strength at the Alamo, to deliver Travis's message to the Texas government at San Felipe. There is no record of Travis dispatching Smithers with Sutherland and Smith and his involvement with the Alamo is unknown. Travis' heroic letter read:
"Commandancy of the AlamoBexar, Fby. 24th, 1836 To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World Fellow Citizens & Compatriots---I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna---I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man---The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken---I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls---I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch---The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country.
VICTORY OR DEATH William Barret Travis Lt. Col. Comdt."
"P. S. The Lord is on our side---When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn---We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves."
On the back of Travis's letter, Martin scribbled:
"Since the above was written I heard a very heavy Cannonade during the whole day think there must have been an attack made upon the alamo We were short of ammunition when I left Hurry all the men you can in haste. Albert Martin (signed). When I left there was but 150 determined to do or die tomorrow I leave for Bejar with what men I can raise [illegible] at all events [illegible] Col Almonte is there the troops are under the Command of Gen. Seisma"
Smithers also scribbled the following:
"I hope that Every One will Rondevu at gonzales as soon poseble as the Brave Solders are suffering do not neglect this powder is very scarce and should not be delad one moment L. Smither "
Smithers rode to San Felipe in less than 40 hours and delivered the message. The Committee for safety conducted an emergency meeting at 11:00 A. M. on 27 February 1836 and adopted a flurry of resolutions to forward men, provisions and munitions to Gonzales. The results were published in a broadsheet by Joseph Baker and Thomas Borden entitled "Meeting of the Citizens of San Felipe". Two hundred copies were printed and distributed. It was later published in the "Telegraph and Texas Register".
On 2 March 1836, General Sam Houston issued the following proclamation:
"War is raging on the frontiers. Bejar is besieged by two thousand of the enemy, under the command of general Siezma. Reinforcements are on their march, to unite with the besieging army. By the last report, our force in Bejar was only one hundred and fifty men strong. The citizens of Texas must rally to the aid of our army, or it will perish. Let the citizens of the East march to the combat. The enemy must be driven from our soil, or desolution will accompany their march upon us. Independence is declared, it must be maintained. Immediate action, united with valor, alone can achieve the great work. The services of all are forthwith required in the field."
Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
"P.S. It is rumored that the enemy are on their march to Gonzales, and that they have entered the colonies. The fate of Bejar is unknown. The country must and shall be defended. The patriots of Texas are appealed to, in behalf of their bleeding country."
On 4 February 1836, Byrd Lockhart, acting commissioner and aide de camp to the President of the Republic of Texas had been sent to Gonzales to recruit a company of volunteers. Lockhart called the Company the Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers and by the time Alcalde Ponton had received Travis' urgent message on 25 February 1836 he had recruited 25 men. Lieutenant George Clinton Kimble was elected as commander and William A. Irvin as first sergeant.
The main contingent of the Gonzales volunteers departed the Gonzales town square on Saturday, 27 February 1836 at 2:00 P. M. Courier Captain Albert Martin who had delivered the later message to Gonzales, along with Sutherland and Smith, accompanied Kimble and his forces back to the Alamo. The company, who were carrying additional supplies for the Alamo,was guided by another Alamo courier, John William Smith, who was a resident and future mayor of San Antonio. Kimble's force consisted of 25 men when they departed Gonzales but increased to 32 as seven more men including Isaac G. Baker joined near Cibola Creek. The party was also accompanied by Albert Martin and another courier named Charles Despalier. On 29 February 1836 the relief force arrived at the outskirts of San Antonio and attempted to find a way to penetrate the Mexican forces and enter the Alamo.
At 3:00 A. M. on 1 March 1936 the 32 men of Lieutenant George C. Kimble's Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers approached the Alamo in single file. John Smith had previously dispatched a messenger to warn the Alamo of the approach of the Gonzales volunteers but not all of the sentries had been alerted. As Kimble's company approached one of the sentries opened fire striking one of the Gonzales men in the foot. He uttered a loud foul curse which convinced the sentries that the men were Texans and they opened the gates. The Gonzales men were greeted with open arms. The Gonzales relief force was the only organized force to respond to Travis's appeal for assistance. Most all of them were members of the De Witt Colony. Travis was grateful for any reinforcements, but knew he needed more. John Henry Brown describes the arrival of the volunteers:
"At dawn on the first of March , Capt. Albert Martin, with 32 men (himself included) from Gonzales and DeWitt's Colony, passed the lines of Santa Anna and entered the walls of the Alamo, never more to leave them. These men, chiefly husbands and fathers, owning their own homes, voluntarily organized and passed through the lines of an enemy four to six thousand strong, to join 150 of their countrymen and neighbors, in a fortress doomed to destruction. Does American history, or any history, ancient or modern, furnish a parallel to such heroism? ......They willingly entered the beleaguered walls of the Alamo, to swell the little band under Travis, resolved "never to surrender or retreat." In after many years it was my privilege to personally know and live near many of their widows and little ones and to see the latter grow into sterling manhood and pure womanhood. I never met or passed one without involuntarily asking upon him or her the blessings of that God who gave the final victory to Texas--John Henry Brown in History of Texas."
Even though their ammunition was low Travis ordered his artillery to fire two rounds from one of their 12 pound cannons to celebrate the arrival of the Gonzales men. One of the shots hit the building that Santa Anna was using as a headquarters, but he was not present at the time.
At 11:00 A. M. on 3 March 1836, using the same route as the Gonzales Volunteers, James Bonham returned to the Alamo from Goliad. On the night of 27 February 1836 Travis had made a final attempt to solicit support from Fannin and dispatched James Bonham who arrived at Goliad on 1 March 1836, about that the same time that Fannin had returned to Goliad after his abortive attempt to march to San Antonio. After failing to convince Fannin to attempt another relief column, Bonham informed Fannin that he was returning to the Alamo. Fannin tried to convince Bonham that his return meant sure death, but Bonham felt that Travis deserved a reply and he rode hard back to the Alamo. Travis knew at this point that no reinforcements were coming.
Later that day, On 3 March 1836, in a final dispatch delivered by John William Smith, Travis reported to the fledging Texas Government his mounting frustration that Fannin had not came to his aid from Goliad and seemed increasingly angry that his fellow Texans had not came to his aid. Travis had infinite patience, but realized that he was running out of time and supplies. He knew that there were many sorely needed good men at Goliad commanded by Colonel Fannin, but he had sent several couriers to Fannin already, asking for aid with no response. He would have to mount a defense with the meager forces that he had.
On 4 March 1836, Santa Anna received reinforcements when the advance elements of the First Brigade commanded by Colonel Francisco Duque arrived with 980 men and one cannon. By this time Santa Anna's total strength was 2, 500 men and 9 pieces of artillery. After twelve days of siege on 5 March 1836, Santa Anna announced to his shocked officers that they were to conduct a final assault on the following day. His commanders objected that the walls were crumbling and with no reinforcements forthcoming the Texans would be forced to surrender in a few days without a costly assault. His officers pleaded with him to wait on the reminder General Antonio Gaona's forces with 700 men and their two heavy twelve pound cannon that were expected to arrive by 7 March 1836. Santa Anna ignored the objections and was determined to remove the stain of Cos' humiliating defeat which was a personal embarrassment to him.
Santa Anna and his staff devoted the remainder of the time towards planning the assault. He planned on four attacking columns and a reserve. His first column would consist of 400 infantry soldiers from the Aldama and San Luis Potosi Battalions commanded by General Cos which was directed to assault the northwest corner of the Alamo. The second column consisted of 380 infantry soldiers from the Toluca Battalion commanded by Colonel Duque who would assault the northern wall. The third column consisting of 400 infantry soldiers from the Jimenez and Matamoros Battalions commanded by Colonel Jose Maria Romero who would attack the eastern wall. The fourth column consisting of 105 light infantry (Cazadores) from the Matamoros, Jimenez and San Luis Potosi Battalions commanded by Colonel Juan Morales would assault the wooden palisade defended by Crockett. Santa Anna held 385 of the best infantry soldiers from the various battalions in reserve which was commanded by Colonel Augustin Amat. His cavalry consisting of 380 troops was commanded by Brigadier General Ramirez y Sesma assigned to patrol the surrounding countryside to prevent reinforcement or escape. Santa Anna also had 10 cannons commanded by Colonel Ampudia.
Travis anticipating Santa Anna's assault ordered final preparations. Through a tremendous effort, the Texans managed to pile earth against the back of the northern wall, strengthening it against cannon fire. All available ammunition was issued, and the men on watch were provided with two or three additional muskets, to be maintained loaded at their posts. Shortly after dusk on 5 March 1836 Travis dispatched one final courier, James L. Allen, at 16 apparently the youngest man in the Alamo, with a last appeal to Fannin to send aid. Although his appeal still rang with defiance, and concluded with "God and Texas! Victory or Death!" it appears that Travis at this point attempted to negotiate with Santa Anna for an honorable surrender with terms. Santa Anna again refused any terms other than unconditional surrender which Travis was still unwilling to do.
When his troops were fully assembled, Santa Anna assumed his position with the north battery about 250 yards from the Alamo and as the first hint of dawn appeared he signaled his bugler, Jose Mara Gonzalez, to sound "Forward" and he launched the attack at 5:00 P. M. on Sunday, 6 March 1836. The other buglers picked up the call and all four columns began the assault.
In the Alamo, Captain John Baugh, who was the duty officer, raised the alarm. Travis raced to his post by the 8 pounder battery, fired his shotgun into the swarm of Mexicans and fell over backwards with a musket ball through his forehead. He fell to the ground with sword in hand and died. Possibly the first of the defenders to be killed. The Texan's cannons fired point blank into the hordes of advancing Mexicans killing the infantry in large numbers. Many of the Texans on the walls in addition to their Kentucky rifles had two or three loaded muskets at their sides and poured a heavy volume of deadly accurate fire into the Mexican ranks. Colonel Duque, commander of the Second Column, was killed by scrap metal fired from one of the cannons, but his men continued to advance over his dead body. The Second Column was the first to reach the wall but faltered under the withering fire from the Texan positions. They had carried ladders for scaling the wall, but they would not support the weight of several men at a time and the soldiers began to bunch up directly under the walls in an attempt to escape the Texans fire. The Texans could not fire on the Mexicans hugging the wall without standing up and exposing themselves.
The other columns were having an even more difficult time as they had further to advance. The Texan's 12 pound cannons mounted on top of the church poured a deadly barrage into Colonel Jose Maria Romero's third column forcing it to veer to the left, leaving their flank exposed. The light infantry forces of Colonel Juan Morales' fourth column rapidly advanced towards the wooden palisade defended by Crockett's Tennessee Volunteers, but Crockett poured a deadly hail of fire from his 4 pound cannons and his men's rifles into their ranks, forcing them to fall to the ground. For a moment it appeared that Santa Anna's assault had failed but the Mexican officers moved cursing and swearing among their men and rallied them to resume the advance.
Under the heavy fire the advancing columns began to veer towards each other and they started to "bunch up." The Third Column veered to the right and mingled with the Second Column, now commanded by Brigadier General Manuel Fernandez Castrillon. The advance again seemed to falter and General Santa Anna ordered Colonel Amat to advance and support Castrillon and Romero against the northwestern corner of the Alamo. At this poin the ordered his buglar to sound "Duguello!", the Mexican tune that signaled "No Mercy." The other buglers picked up the tune and it inspired Santa Anna's faltering troops to resume the advance. Members of the Toluca Battalion led by Brigadier General Juan Amador, Santa Anna's aide de camp, managed to breach the north wall, while at almost the same moment General Cos' Aldama Battalion scaled the west wall. The Mexicans then jumped into the plaza below and opened a small gate which allowed the Mexicans to flood into the Alamo. Within minutes the entire north wall was under their control.
Captain Dickinson who was with the artillery on top of the Chruch began to swing the 12 pound cannons around so he could bring them to bear on the Mexicans rushing through the gate in the north wall. Dickinson's battery poured a deadly stream of grape shot and scrap into the Mexicans while the 8 pound battery in the courtyard fired on them also. The Mexicans sustained tremendous casualties and faltered for a moment but the sheer momentum from their numbers enabled them to continue the assault.
Crockett had repulsed the fourth column, but they had maintained their discipline and made their way to the southwestern corner where they stormed the earthen redoubt and captured the 18 pound cannon. Colonel Morales then led them in a charge into the courtyard where they joined the increasing swarm of Mexicans. The Texans who had withstood the overwhelming Mexican onslaught for 45 minutes fell back to the entrenchments they had previously prepared but were soon to retreat into the buildings where they made their final stand. Jose Maria Torres a young Mexican with the Jimenez battalion climbed the roof of the barracks and hauled down the Texas flag and hoisted his battalion's colors aloft.
Some of the bloodiest hand to hand fighting occurred in the barracks area. The chapel defended by Captain Almaron Dickinson and his 12 pound cannon was the last to fall. Colonel Morales positioned the captured 18 pound cannon and fired several rounds into the church, while his troops maintained a constant fire on Dickinson's position. When the return fire from the church began to waver, Morales ordered 50 soldiers to storm the building with their bayonets. Dickinson and his surviving men were either shot or bayoneted. As a final act of defiance Robert Evans attempted to ignite the powder stores as he was struck dead. James Bowie who was terminally ill and unable to leave his sick bed, was shot and bayoneted where he lay.
There five of the men managed to escape over the wall during the final phase of the assault. Of them only one, Henry Warnell, managed to survive. Three of the otheres were killed by the cavalry and one survived for a time by hiding under a culvert but was killed the following day. Seven of the defenders surrendered. After the firing died down General Santa Anna entered the Alamo and General Fernandez Castrillon approached and reported that several defenders had been captured and recommended mercy for the prisoners. Santa Anna angrily demanded that they be executed immediately. The following is the first hand account by Lieutenant Colonel Jose Enrique de la Pena of the execution of the prisoners:
"Some seven men survived the general carnage and, under the protection of General Castrillón, they were brought before Santa Anna. Among them was one of great stature, well proportioned, with regular features, in whose face there was the imprint of adversity, but in whom one also noticed a degree of resignation and nobility that did him honor. He was the naturalist David Crockett, well known in North America for his unusual adventures, who had undertaken to explore the country and who, finding himself in Béjar at the very moment of surprise, had taken refuge in the Alamo, fearing that his status as a foreigner might not be respected. Santa Anna answered Castrillón's intervention in Crockett's behalf with a gesture of indignation and, addressing himself to the sappers, the troops closest to him, ordered his execution. The commanders and officers were outraged at this action and did not support the order, hoping that once the fury of the moment had blown over these men would be spared; but several officers who were around the president and who, perhaps, had not been present during the danger, became noteworthy by an infamous deed, surpassing the soldiers in cruelty. They thrust themselves forward, in order to flatter their commander, and with swords in hand, fell upon these unfortunate, defenseless men just as a tiger leaps upon his prey. Though tortured before they were killed, these unfortunates died without complaining and without humiliating themselves before their torturers."
Perry, Carmen. "With Santa Anna in Texas : A Personal Narrative of the Revolution / Jose Enrique de la Pena." College Station : Texas A & M University Press, 1997. TXC-ZZ F 390 P3313 1997
A debate continues to this day over whether or not David Crockett was among the ones that surrendered. Regardless over the circumstances of his death, Crockett mounted a valiant defense of the palisades and he remains one of the true heroes of the Alamo.
The battle was all over by 7:00 A. M,. just two hours from the time that Santa Anna had launched the final assault with Gonzalez's bugle call. It was a costly victory for Santa Anna as he lost over 600 men or about a fourth of his forces. There is conflicting information over the Mexican casualties at the Alamo, and the fact that many of the wounded likely died later contributes to the confusion. At any rate it is obvious that Santa Anna had little regard for the lives of his men and certainly none whatsoever for the lives of Texan prisoners. There were 187 Texans killed in the battle including all of the 32 Gonzales volunteers and 8 others from Gonzales.
There were several non-combatant survivors of the Alamo including Susanna W. Dickinson, widow of Captain Almaron Dickinson and her infant daughter Angelina Dickinson. Travis's servant, Joe, and Bowie's servant, Sam, were also spared. Bowie's sisters in law, Mrs. Gertrudis Navarro and Mrs. Juana Alsbury were among the suvivors. There were several other Mexican women and their children who survived. Santa Anna apparently treated the survivors kindly and even offered to adopt Angelina Dickinson. Santa Anna provided Susanna Dickinson with some money and told her she was free to go. Before she departed he conducted a parade of his Army in her honor and sent his black cook, Ben, to escort her to the Texan lines.
Susanna Dickinson made her way back to Gonzales and reported the tragedy of the Alamo to General Houston. Houston abandoned Gonzales and retreated eastward across the Colorado River into the settlements of the eastern woodlands. When news of the Alamo spread through the settlements it created widespread panic in what became known as the Runaway Scrape. Houston eventually defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto on 21 April 1836 and the war which began at Gonzales concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Velasco on 14 May 1836.
Byrd Lockhart and Andrew Jackson Sowell were both saved from death at the Alamo, when they were sent back to Gonzales to obtain supplies before the final assault began. They were delayed in Gonzales attempting to purchase cattle and supplies and spared from the massacre.
The Gonzales men that died at the Alamo known as the "Immortal Thirty Two" were: Isaac Baker, John Cane, George W. Cottle, David P. Cummings, Squire Damon, Jacob C. Darst, John Davis, William Dearduff, Charles Despallier, William Fishbaugh, Johm Flanders, Thomas Jackson, Johnny Kellogg, Andrew Kent, George C. Kimball, John G. King, William P. King, Albert Martin, Jesse McCoy, Thomas R. Miller, Issac Millsap, Dolphin Ward Floyd, Galha Fuqua, John E. Garvin, John E. Gaston, James George, William E. Summers, George Tumlinson, Robert White, and Claiborne Wright.
In all there were about 40 men from Gonzales who died at the Alamo, among them were some of their most productive landholders, ranchers and farmers as well as merchants and civic leaders of Texas. Counted among the dead at the Alamo were at least 17 Gonzales men who had previously participated in battles at Gonzales, Concepcion and San Antonio. Seven within the group were related to at least one other member and others had multiple relations within the group. Several other Gonzales men were couriers and not present at the battle. By all estimates, participation of the DeWitt Colonists in the Battle of Gonzales and the subsequent battles against the Mexicans during 1835 and 1836 was larger per capita than any other settlement of Texas. Men from Gonzales, who constituted only about 4% of the total population of Texas, accounted for 20% of the casualties at the Alamo. The contributions of these brave men of Gonzales towards achieving Texas independence can not be overstated. Perhaps the bravest and most heroic of all the Alamo defenders were that little band of Gonzales volunteers that risked all to ride into the midst of the siege of the Alamo, knowing full well they had little chance of survival to strengthen the meager defenses of their friends and companions. The heroic members of Kimbles Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers will forever be remembered as "The Immortal Thirty Two."
Show Footnotes and
Asbury, Samuel E., Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, "Private Journal of Juan Nepomuceno Almonte", Volume 48, Number 1, Southwestern Historical Quarterly Online,
Barr, Alwyn, "Texans in Revolt: The Battle for San Antonio, 1835" Austin, University of Texas Press, 1990
Barker, Eugene C. and Pohl, James W. "Texas Revolution" The Handbook of Texas
Bennet, Miles S. "The Battle of Gonzales: The `Lexington' of the Texas Revolution," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association Vol. 2, April 1899
Brown, John Henry, "History of Texas from 1685 to 1892" 2 vols., St. Louis. Daniell, 1893.
Green, Michael R., "To the People of Texas and All the Americans in the World," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. 91, April, 1988.
Groneman, Bill, "Alamo Defenders", Austin, Eakin, 1990
Hardin, Stephen L. "The Battle of the Alamo" The Handbook of Texas
Hardin, Stephen L. "Battle of Gonzales" The Handbook of Texas
Lindley, Thomas Ricks, "Gonzales "Come and Take it Cannon" The Handbook of Texas
Nofi, Albert A., "The Alamo and the Texas War of Independence September 30, 1835 to April 21 1836 Heros, Myths and History" New York, Da Capo Press, 1994
Pierce, Michael D., "Sacrificed at the Alamo: Tragedy and Triumph in the Texas Revolution", Journal of Southern History, Vol. 71, 2005
Pohl, James W. and Hardin, Stephen L. "The Military History of the Texas Revolution: An Overview," Southwestern Historical Quarterly Volume 89, January, 1986.
Ethel Zivley Rather, "DeWitt's Colony," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association , Vol. 8, October 1904.
Smithwick, Noah, "The Evolution of a State, or Recollections of Old Texas Days", Austin, Gammel, 1900
Sutherland, Dr. John, "The Fall of the Alamo", San Antonio, The Naylor Company, 1936
Taylor, Creed, "Tall Men with Long Rifles: The Glamorous Story of the Texas Revolution", 1935
Williams, Amelia "A Critical Study of The Siege of The Alamo and of the Personnel of its Defenders" The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. 37, Nos. 1 - 4, July 1933
Primary Source Documents
Bowie, James E. and Fannin, James W., "Concepcion Battle Report", 28 Oct 1835
Burleson, Edward, "Burleson's official report of the "Grass Fight", 27 Nov 1835
Burleson, Edward, and Milam, Benjamin, "Report of first assault on Bexar to the Provisional Government", 6 December 1835
Cos, Martin Perfecto, "Message to troops", October 13, 1835.
Cos, Martin Perfecto, "Report to Minister of War, Jose Maria Tornel", October 19, 1835
Filisola, Vicente, "Report and commentary on the siege and battle of the Alamo"., March 5-6, 1836
Jack, William, "Captain William Jack's report to Burleson on the "Grass Fight" 27 Nov 1835
Johnson, Francis W. "Commander F.W. Johnson's battle report", 11 Dec 1835
Mason, Charles, "Mason to Frank (Francis) Johnson", February 4, 1874.
Pena, Jose Enrique de la, "With Santa Anna in Texas: A Personal Narrative of the Revolution, March 6, 1836" , Edited by Carmen Perry, College Station, Texas A & M University Press, 1997
Ponton, Andrew, "Ponton to Ramon Musquiz", September 26, 1835
Rusk, Thomas J., "Description of the "Grass Fight"
Rusk, Thomas J., "Report of the Battle of Gonzales from Secretary of War Thomas J. Rusk", December 1835
Santa Anna, Antonio Lopez, "Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Manifesto relating to the Texas Campaign", May 10, 1837
Santa Anna, Antonio Lopez, "Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Order to storm the Alamo", March 5, 1836
Smither, Launcelot, "Smither to the Council of the Provisional Government", November 23, 1835
Sutherland, John , "Sutherland. Account of events in San Antonio", January 18-February 23, 1836
Travis, William B., "Travis "to the people of Texas and all Americans in the world," February 24, 1836.
Travis, William B, "Travis to the Convention", March 3, 1836
Copyright © 2009 Garland Lively
Written by Garland Lively. If you have questions or comments on this article,
please contact Garland Lively at:
About the author:
Garland R. Lively is a retired United States Army officer with a keen interest in military history. He served two tours as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and later worked in various Department of Defense command and control systems positions. After retiring from the Army in 1986 Mr. Lively accepted a position with a Washington D. C. based DOD consulting firm as the head of their European operations where he continued his work in DOD and NATO command and control systems. After retirement in 1993 Mr. Lively moved to his farm on the Brazos River near Waco, Texas where he has pursued his life long passion for military history and genealogy. Mr. Lively has written fourteen genealogy books and numerous articles about southwestern history.
Published online: 06/14/2009.
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