1835

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And So It Begins. The Texas Revolution

The Texians (not Texans as yet) haven't decided if they will fight for independence or a return to the Mexican Constitution of 1824. That was the Constitution to which many had sworn allegiance and hoped to see return. General Santa Anna has set himself up as dictator over a region extending from Panama to the borders of Oregon. For several years, the Texians have been in rebellion, but Tejas is the frontier and Santa Anna has his hands full closer to home. (He recently murdered 2,000 non-combatants AFTER he put down their revolution in central Mexico, so don't even THINK of messing with him!) He sends some poorly-equipped dragoons (that is, mounted infantry) and cavalry to Tejas to handle what he thinks will be a few skirmishes. In many ways he is correct. The Texians are mostly a volunteer army. They have taken no oaths, so they can leave as they please. They are their own captains and they think of it exactly that way. They also carry those Kentucky rifles that can shoot the eye out of the dove-of-peace at 200 yards. The Mexican Army is carrying those Brown Bess muskets with gunpowder that is "little better than pounded charcoal." At 60 yards, a hit might leave a nasty bruise. It's the grapeshot from cannon fire that is the threat to Texians. They have set up a provisional government called the Consultation, but winning the war seems more important right now. They can figure out the politics later. [1] [2] [3]

Come and Take It: The Battle of Gonzales

In happier days, the Mexican government had bestowed a small cannon upon the town of Gonzales for defense against Indians. The people of Gonzalez have never shown a bit of disloyalty, and Empresario Green DeWitt has been a strong supporter of Mexico, but things turn sour after some Mexican soldiers take over the store of a local merchant and viciously beat the local militiaman, Jesse McCoy, who tries to straighten out the misunderstanding. Having a town with lingering bad feelings toward Mexican troops and armed with a cannon seems like a bad idea, so the commander at San Antonio sends a few soldiers to request (not demand) the cannon back. (Cannon? What cannon?) After a lot of fooling around the commander sends Lieutenant Castañeda with 100 soldiers to retrieve the cannon... without violence if at all possible. In the meantime, Gonzalez defenders call for help. Texian volunteers arrive to find a very reasonable Mexican force on the other side of the river. The Texian volunteers haven't come all this way just to sit around! Under the cover of darkness, they cross the river. Shots are fired. A Texian falls from his mount and gets up with a bloody nose. The Texians in Gonzalez raise a banner that reads "Come and Take It" with the image of a cannon on it. The Gonzalez cannon is fired once and the Mexican force withdraws with maybe one or two soldiers killed and without the cannon. As battles go, it is insignificant, but as a first strike for liberty, it is a bonanza. [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Those are the bare bones of it, but there are a lot of interesting side stories that go along with the battle. A doctor named Lancelot Smithers heard of the coming confrontation and rode across Texas to negotiate peace, but he was arrested by Lieutenant Castañeda. As it turned out, Smithers was needed for translating and after some back-and-forth it was clear that both sides favored the Constitution of 1824! But since the Mexican Army was under the orders of Santa Anna, the Texians would not capitulate. The cannon itself didn't come with cannonballs, so they collected as much scrap metal as they could find and stuffed it in the barrel. Could this possibly be an effective weapon? According to an episode of Mythbusters, yes it could, but only at shorter ranges. The Mexican Army withdrew because the Lieutenant's orders stipulated that he was not to use force to retrieve the cannon. [2] [5]

The Siege of Béxar (San Antonio)

Well... General Cós has landed a Mexican force at the Bay of Copano which is north of what will one day be called Corpus Christi. It will serve as the beginning of his logistics train, and as plans go, it's not too bad, but when he hears of the Battle of Gonzalez, he moves quickly to the fortifications at Béxar (BAY-har, which sounds like "BEAR" with two syllables). It is present day San Antonio. He leaves a small force to guard his rear... too small, as it turns out. The Texians neatly cut off the General's supply route. He is royally... uh... without a means of support. Empresario Stephen F. Austin leads a force from Gonzalez to meet the General at San Antonio and sends Jim Bowie (the guy with the knife) to scout ahead and return. Bowie is a heck of a guy in a fight, but after the death of his wife, he has become a bit of a drunk and barroom brawler. He stops at Mission Concepción for the night, ignoring Austin's orders to return. In the morning, Bowie's scouting party is greeted with an overwhelming military force. With their backs against the river, they are trapped. For some reason, the Mexican forces come straight in. In a battle between roughly equivalent weapons, it might have worked, but the infantry cannot get close enough before those Kentucky rifles pick them off. The cannon fire is doing nothing but knocking the nuts off the trees. The Texians casually pick them up and pop them into their mouths. In 30 minutes it is all over. General Cós has learned his lesson. He will stay behind the fortifications and wait out Austin's makeshift army. The Siege of Béxar has begun. [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Siege of Béxar revealed all the problems with a volunteer army. Time and again Austin wanted to attack the fortifications, but he was overruled by his officers. They had lost confidence in Austin, so he was replaced by Edward Burleson, his second in command. At first, Burleson did no better. The Texians were short on everything except rum. Jim Bowie caught out a Mexican supply patrol, but it turned out they were only carrying grass. If the General was willing to risk his men on a mission to collect grass to feed his horses, it meant the siege was working! It was now or never. On December 5th, the Texians attacked. They pushed the Mexican forces back to the Alamo and there the Texians pounded Cós with artillery fire. 175 Mexican soldiers rode off with Cós chasing them on foot, begging them to stay. On December 9th Cós ordered a flag of truce. The terms of surrender were that soldiers who lived in Béxar could stay. All others would leave with minimum weaponry for protection and a pledge to Almighty God to uphold the Constitution of 1824. Other than the Battle of San Jacinto, this is the most significant win for the soon-to-be Republic of Texas. [8]

In Other News

  • Mark Twain is born in a village of 100 people. Florida, Missouri's most famous resident will become one of the world's favorite authors. [9] [10]
  • Democracy in America, volume 1 is published. A French aristocrat seeks to understand how America works: "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults." [11]
  • Samuel Colt patents his single-barreled pistol in England. Next year he will receive his US patent. It will be called the Colt Paterson. A cylinder rotates to align with the barrel after each pull of the hammer. You must partially disassemble the gun to reload though. [12] [13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1835, Wikipedia.

See Also

References

  1. Alex Shrugged notes: In many ways Santa Anna remains the Texas Devil, but he was an important figure in Mexico's history and is viewed differently in Mexico. I will do my best to treat him fairly. He was not a very nice guy, but in the situation he was in, nice guys finished dead. Just keep that in mind. Most of my comments come from my understanding of a reading of the book "Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution" and from "Texas Rising: The Epic True Story of the Lone Star Republic and the Rise of the Texas Rangers".
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hardin, Stephen L.. Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292731028. 
  3. Moore, Stephen L.. Texas Rising: The Epic True Story of the Lone Star Republic and the Rise of the Texas Rangers, 1836-1846. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062394323. 
  4. Battle of Gonzales - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 26 July 2016. “When the initial request was refused, Ugartechea sent 100 dragoons to retrieve the cannon. The soldiers neared Gonzales on September 29, but the colonists used a variety of excuses to keep them from the town, while secretly sending messengers to request assistance from nearby communities. Within two days, up to 140 Texians gathered in Gonzales, all determined not to give up the cannon. On October 1, settlers voted to initiate a fight. Mexican soldiers opened fire as Texians approached their camp in the early hours of October 2. After several hours of desultory firing, the Mexican soldiers withdrew.”
  5. Alex Shrugged notes: Although I cannot find an exact link to the Mythbusters episode, as near I can figure it was Season 5, Episode 23 entitled Pirates 2. It asked the question: What could be fired out of a cannon if you run out of cannonballs?
  6. Battle of Concepción - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 26 July 2016. “After learning that the Texian Army was divided, Cos sent Ugartechea with 275 soldiers to attack the Texians camped at Concepción. The Texians took cover in a horseshoe-shaped gully; their good defensive position, longer firing range, and better ammunition helped them to repel several Mexican attacks, and the Mexican soldiers retreated just 30 minutes before the remainder of the Texian Army arrived. Historians estimate that between 14 and 76 Mexican soldiers were killed, while only one Texian soldier died.”
  7. Stephen F. Austin - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 26 July 2016. “Stephen Fuller Austin (November 3, 1793 – December 27, 1836) was an American empresario born in Virginia and raised in southeastern Missouri. Known as the Father of Texas, and the founder of Texas he led the second, and ultimately successful, colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States to the region in 1825. In addition, he worked with the Mexican government to support immigration from the United States.”
  8. Siege of Béxar - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 26 July 2016. “After a short battle, the Mexican soldiers withdrew towards Bexar, leaving their pack animals behind.[52] To the surprise of the Texians, the saddlebags contained not bullion, but freshly cut grass to feed the Mexican horses trapped in Bexar.[”
  9. Florida, Missouri - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 25 July 2016. “'The village contained a hundred people and I increased the population by 1 per cent. It is more than many of the best men in history could have done for a town.'”
  10. Mark Twain - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 25 July 2016. “Twain was raised in Hannibal, Missouri, which later provided the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. After an apprenticeship with a printer, Twain worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to the newspaper of his older brother, Orion Clemens. He later became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River before heading west to join Orion in Nevada.”
  11. Democracy in America - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 June 2016. “De La Démocratie en Amérique published in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840) is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville. Its title translates as On Democracy in America, but English translations are usually simply entitled Democracy in America. In the book, Tocqueville examines the democratic revolution that he believed had been occurring over the previous seven hundred years.”
  12. Samuel Colt - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 26 July 2016. “He abandoned the idea of a multiple barreled revolver and opted for a single fixed barrel design with a rotating cylinder. The action of the hammer would align the cylinder bores with the single barrel. He sought the counsel of a friend of his father, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, who loaned him $300 and advised him to perfect his prototype before applying for a patent. Colt hired a gunsmith by the name of John Pearson to build his revolver. Over the next few years Colt and Pearson fought over money, but the design improved and in 1835 Colt was ready to apply for his US patent. Ellsworth was now the superintendent of the US Patent Office and advised Colt to file for foreign patents first as a prior US patent would keep Colt from filing a patent in Great Britain. In August 1835, Colt left for England and France to secure his foreign patent.”
  13. Colt Paterson - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 26 July 2016. “The Colt Paterson is a revolver. It was the first commercial repeating firearm employing a revolving cylinder with multiple chambers aligned with a single, stationary barrel. Its design was patented by Samuel Colt on February 25, 1836, in the United States, France, and England, and it derived its name from being produced in Paterson, New Jersey. Initially this 5-shot revolver was produced in .28 caliber, with a .36 caliber model following a year later.”

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