Texas Revolution Began 185 Years Ago Today

By Tara Ross, Guest Author

On this day (October 2nd) in 1835, the Texas Revolution begins! Did you know that the first battle was fought because Texans decided that the Mexicans would have to pull an old, small cannon out of their cold, dead hands?

Does that fact, alone, explain my home state?!

The Texas Revolution wasn’t fought entirely over one old cannon, of course. That cannon was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, prompting a skirmish that came to be known as the Battle of Gonzales.

In 1835, Texans (or “Texians”) were concerned about the increasingly dictatorial Mexican government and its army. But the town of Gonzales found itself in the crossfire for a rather unexpected reason. It possessed one small cannon that had come from San Antonio de Béxar in 1831. Some thought the cannon was loaned, others thought it had been given. Either way, Gonzales felt that it needed the cannon to scare off local Indian tribes.

As tensions between the Mexican government and the Texians escalated, the Mexicans decided that Gonzales could not keep its cannon anymore. The given reason was that the cannon had been given only as a loan. But perhaps the real reason is that the government wanted to disarm citizens? Either way, town officials were notified that the cannon must be returned.

The alcalde, or mayor, of Gonzales called a town meeting and a vote was taken. All but three people agreed: Gonzales should keep its cannon!

Nevertheless, Mexican commander Francisco de Castañeda was sent to retrieve the cannon.

The Mexican force reached the Guadalupe River on September 29, but then it got stuck. Recent rains had made the river difficult to cross. Complicating matters, Texians had taken all the boats from Castañeda’s side of the river. Eighteen Texians were now guarding the river on the other side. In the meantime, Gonzales was calling for help from nearby towns. Its citizens buried the cannon in a nearby peach orchard.

Come hell or high water, they were not giving up that cannon!

The Texians managed to stall for a while. Castañeda wanted to talk, but the Texians noted that the talks were more properly held with the alcalde, Andrew Ponton. (Surprise, surprise. He wasn’t there.) Even when the Texians did engage in talks, they just shouted across the river at Castañeda. At one point, a single Mexican was allowed to swim back and forth with messages.

What a scene! Naturally, the delay mostly ensured that the Texians got reinforcements.

The stalemate continued until October 1, when Castañeda moved his men a few miles upriver. By now, the Texians were getting tired of the situation. They dug up the cannon and created shrapnel from anything they could find. They hauled the cannon across the river and approached the Mexican camp early on October 2. A thick fog hid them from view.

A few shots were exchanged during the early morning hours, but the more serious fighting began after sunrise. Naturally, the controversial cannon was brought into battle. The Texians had created a white flag, which waved proudly over the cannon.

You guessed it. The flag bore the words: “Come and Take It.”

The fighting itself was more of a brief skirmish than a true battle. In the end, Castañeda quickly retreated because he thought his orders required him to do so before the conflict escalated into war. His retreat came too late. The Texas Revolution was on.


Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2020 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the share feature instead of cutting/pasting.#TDIH#OTD#History#USHistory#liberty#freedom#ShareTheHistory

Guest author, Tara Ross, is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! Stay tuned here for updates on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.

The ‘Father of Texas’ is born, 225 years ago today

 

Stephen F. Austin

The ‘Father of Texas,’ Stephen F. Austin

By Tara Ross

On this day in 1793, Stephen F. Austin is born. He would come to be known as the “Father of Texas.”

Perhaps there is a twist of irony in that title? When Austin first heard of an opportunity to set up a settlement in Texas, he wasn’t so crazy about the idea.

To the contrary, it was Stephen’s father who originally wanted to go to Texas. Moses Austin’s personal finances had suffered following the Panic of 1819, and he was looking for new opportunities. He decided to seek land grants in Texas. Unfortunately, Moses passed away in the middle of the process. Thus, it was left to Stephen to take over where his father had left off.

It wasn’t easy! Ownership of Texas had changed. Although Moses had worked out a deal with Spain, the Mexican government did not want to honor it at first. Stephen traveled to Mexico City and lobbied in person, and he was eventually given permission to move forward. He was an “empresario,” with civil and military authority over the first Anglo-American settlements in Texas. More empresarios would follow, but Austin was the most successful of them, bringing as many as 1,500 families to the area. He was well-respected, and other empresarios sought his advice. As such, he found himself constantly mediating between Texan settlers and the Mexican government. You can imagine this got tricky! For instance, when Mexico banned further Anglo-American immigration into Texas in 1830, settlers were unhappy. Many had long thought that Texas would be purchased by the United States, but such a move now seemed less likely. They wanted the ban lifted. In fact, they generally felt that they should have a bigger say in their own governance. They wanted Texas to be its own state.

By 1833, matters were getting serious. Settlers wrote a list of grievances and a proposed Constitution for a new state of Texas; they elected Austin to take these items to Mexico City. Austin was worried that the move was too aggressive, but he went anyway. He ended up getting arrested for suspicion of trying to incite an insurrection. (Oops!) He wasn’t freed until July 1835.


‘War is our only resource. There is no other remedy but to defend our rights our country and our selves by force of arms. To do this we must be united.’


Austin was slow to get on board with the cause of Texas independence (he preferred conciliation with Mexico), but once he was on board, he did not turn back. As chairman of a Committee of Safety, he wrote: “War is our only resource. There is no other remedy but to defend our rights our country & our selves by force of arms. To do this we must be united.”

Austin commanded Texan forces during the Siege of Bexar, but he spent much of the (relatively short) 6-month Texas Revolution in the United States, seeking support for the “Texian” cause. When Austin returned home, he discovered that his influence had been eclipsed by that of Sam Houston, the victor at the Battle of San Jacinto. Both men were candidates in the first presidential election. Houston won. Austin came in a distant third.

Austin died only 8 months after Texas had won her independence, possibly weakened by a disease that he’d contracted during his imprisonment in Mexico. Upon hearing of Austin’s death, President Sam Houston declared: “The father of Texas is no more. The first pioneer of the wilderness has departed.”

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Tara Ross is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! 

 

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