Chapter Three: The Revolution
Upon returning to Gonzales, John Sowell resumed his occupation as a blacksmith. Umphries Branch departed Texas and as best as can be determined, never returned.
Events continued to unfold. Gonzales was to become the focal point early in the Revolution.
Two Mexican officers had plans to subdue the rebellious Texans. General Cos was in Matamoros and Colonel Ugartechea was in San Antonio. Cos wanted revenge for the Anahuac incident. Ugartechea wanted to reestablish order by force.
On September 29, 1835, Colonel Ugartachea dispatched one hundred soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant Francisco Castaneda, to Gonzales to retrieve the six-pound cannon that had been given to Green De Witt in 1832 for defense.
The Mayor, Andrew Ponton, was convinced the Mexicans wanted the cannon back so that they, the settlers, would be less able to defend themselves. He hid the cannon and refused to give it back. Later the cannon was taken out of hiding, placed on an oxcart, loaded and readied for action. John Sowell mixed scraps of iron, horseshoes, and nails together to make shot for the cannon. A banner was made which would fly over the cannon. Inscribed on the banner were the words "Come and Take It."
On October 2, Colonel John Moore, with about 160 men, crossed the Guadalupe River where Castaneda was encamped and rode into Castaneda's position. One Mexican soldier was killed. Lieutenant Castaneda quickly retreated to San Antonio, without the cannon. The Texas Revolution had begun.
In the meantime many native Mexican families made their decision to either fight for independence or live under a dictator. There was as much at stake for the native Tejanos as there was for the colonists. Some of these patriotic Tejanos holding land in or near the Seguin area were: Jose Antonio Navarro - Signer of the Declaration of Independence, prisoner at Santa Fe; Luciano Navarro - brother of Jose Antonio; Erasmo Seguin - Postmaster General of the Department of Bexar; friend of Stephen F. Austin, supporter of the Revolution; Juan Seguin - Mayor of San Antonio, Republic Senator, cavalry commander; Manuel Flores family - large landholders in Floresville, fighting for Texas Independence; Rodrigues family - landholders, supporters of the Texas Revolution; Veramendi family - landholders, supporters of the Texas Revolution; Garza family - landholders, supporters of the Texas Revolution.
Indeed, of those who had land grants in the Seguin region prior to the arrival of the colonists, and there were 331 De Witt colonists, an assumption can be made that all remained loyal to the cause.
Green De Witt's colony had two representatives sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. One would become a co-founder of Seguin in 1838 - Matthew Caldwell. The other was John Fisher. Thus, from this region two of three declared for independence - Navarro and Caldwell.
According to Max Moellering's Master's Thesis on The History of Guadalupe County, and Mrs. Weinert's Authentic History of Guadalupe County, the Honor Roll of The Texas Revolutionary Heroes and Texas Republic Heroes, who either founded Seguin, later settled in what would become Guadalupe County, or had business with Seguin and its region were
These thirty-eight men made their mark on the Revolution, the Republic, and State. Certainly some accomplished more than what has been outlined herein. However, even the least accomplished was as great as the most accomplished, for each man had the courage to follow his convictions.
Several battles of the Revolution were common to more than just a few of these men. These battles were the siege of San Antonio in 1835, the battle of the Alamo, the Runaway Scrape, and the battle of San Jacinto. For the background and enjoyment of the reader each will be briefly covered. By so doing the reader can gain a better feeling for the times and trials of Seguin's early founders and settlers.
A battle cry soon rang out among the volunteers across Texas - On to San Antonio. Mexicans and Anglos joined at Gonzales for the march to San Antonio and General Cos. Stephen F. Austin, upon his arrival in Gonzales, was quickly chosen to be the overall Commander of the Volunteers.
On October 13, 1835, a rag tag troop of some three hundred strong made their way to San Antonio. General Cos had 1200 cavalry, infantry, and artillery in San Antonio.
James Bowie and James Fannin, Jr., with a reconnaissance force of ninety men near the south side of San Antonio, along the San Antonio River, were attacked by a Mexican Cavalry force of four hundred. Mission Concepcion, near by, was selected by Bowie and Fannin for security after a brief skirmish in which sixty Mexican soldiers were killed. One Texan was killed. This incident came to be known as the Battle of Concepcion in the siege of San Antonio.
On November 26, Erasmus "Deaf" Smith had been out on a scouting mission. After spotting a Mexican pack train moving toward San Antonio from the south, the Volunteers decided to attack the pack train. Bowie and Fannin thought it might be reinforcements trying to break the siege. For a month the Volunteers had been successful in cutting Cos' supply routes.
The Volunteers attacked with a vengeance. Again they were successful. Fifty Mexicans were killed while the Texans suffered two wounded. As it turned out, the pack train had been dispatched by General Cos to seek forage for the besieged live stock. The pack train was returning from its foraging party. This battle, known as the Grass Fight, elevated the spirits of the Volunteers. The pack train proved that the siege on San Antonio was working.
Ben Milam subsequently went out on a scouting mission. He learned that the morale of the Mexican garrison was low. Even though the Volunteer's Officers had been ordered to leave and winter in at Goliad, Milam defiantly shouted "Who will go with Old Ben Milam into San Antonio?" Milam had the sixth sense of knowing when to go in for the kill.
On the morning of December 5, 299 men followed Ben Milam to San Antonio from Mission Concepcion.
The battle lasted four days. For three days the Mexicans bombarded the Texas Volunteers with artillery and musketry. Finally, on December 8, the Volunteers broke through and executed a vicious house-to-house assault. Ben Milam was killed that day, but not for nought. On December 9, General Cos surrendered his garrison. Agreeing to turn over all that the Mexicans had in San Antonio (money, property, munitions and supplies) General Cos was allowed to retreat south of the Rio Grande.
The year 1835 closed with a new Provisional Government for Texas, led by Henry Smith. Unfortunately there was a great deal of discord among the members of the new government. As a result, when 1836 was ushered in, confusion reigned among the various military commanders. A plan was hatched to invade Mexico by taking Matamoros. Sam Houston secured a treaty with the Cherokees in East Texas to remain at peace with the Texans and not to support Mexico.
William B. Travis would become commander of the Texan garrison in San Antonio, following Jim Bowie. James Fannin landed at Copano Bay February 2 with some two hundred volunteers for the invasion of Matamoros. He was unaware that the commander of the Matamoros invasion force, F. W. Johnson, had been persuaded by Sam Houston not to invade. While enroute to link up with Johnson, Fannin learned that Santa Anna had begun his attack on Texas. Quickly Fannin dropped the invasion plan and repaired to the strategically located Goliad, assembling some four hundred and fifty men.
Santa Anna, as President of Mexico, had become furious at his countrymen's defeat at the hands of a second rate, ill-trained, disreputable lot of revolutionists. On February 16, 1836, he crossed the Rio Grande moving towards San Antonio. On his right flank, marching up from the Rio Grande Valley along what is basically Highway 77 today and towards Goliad, was Colonel Jose Urrea.
Travis, who succeeded Jim Bowie as the Commander in San Antonio around February 5, continued to assemble volunteers to replace those who had left to invade Matamoros. He had brought about thirtyone men with him. James Bonham left Goliad to join Travis. Davy Crockett, with a dozen of his "Tennessee Boys" rode into town February 8. Thirty-two volunteers came from Gonzales alone. Mr. Almaron Dickenson, local blacksmith who had forged eighteen cannons for the defense of the Alamo, took his wife Suzanna, and fifteen-month-old baby, and sought refuge in the Alamo on February 23. When the advance party of Santa Anna's army arrived in San Antonio, Santa Anna had a total of six thousand men marching on Texas.
Travis sent out appeals for help to Gonzales, Goliad, and Washington-on-the-Brazos. On February 23 he dispatched two scouts to Gonzales appealing for men and supplies.
The Mexicans began their siege and bombardment the twenty-fourth of February. On the night of the twenty-fifth Juan Seguin, using Jim Bowie's horse, galloped through the Mexican lines to Gonzales, again with a plea for help. With him were two Tejanos. Eight others remained inside the Alamo, fighting alongside their Anglo patriots. The bombardment continued. On the twenty-sixth, Fannin started out from Goliad for the Alamo, but returned the twenty-seventh. The Goliad massacre ensued. John Smith, one of the first two sent to Gonzales, returned through Mexican lines with reinforcements and arrived at the Alamo at 3 a.m. on March 1. James B. Bonham twice went out and twice returned to the Alamo, the last time having to ride through a hail of bullets on March 3.
On the night of March 3, John Smith again slipped out of the Alamo and headed for Washington-on-the-Brazos with Travis' note that a final defense would be made at the Alamo. It is an irony that none of the defenders knew that just the day before, March 2, 1836, Texas had voted to declare her independence from Mexico.
Just before dawn, March 6, the Mexican band played the infamous Deguello. By afternoon the Alamo had fallen. There were several survivors, one of whom was Davy Crockett. One commander wanted to keep him as a prisoner. Santa Anna's response was brutal - execute them. Their death was vicious, brutal. They were first hacked with swords and then put to death. Not once did the survivors cry out in pain, remaining proud, defiant to the end.
Suzanna Dickenson and her child stood before Santa Anna. She was allowed to remain alive, and leave if she so wished. Accompanied by a slave loaned to her by Mrs. Sam Maverick of San Antonio, the "Babe of The Alamo" departed for Gonzales.
Of the approximate 187 defenders, only one was afforded a Christian burial. There is no evidence that Juan Seguin returned to bury the dead. Mexico suffered 1600 casualties, over eight times the number of Alamo defenders.
Somewhere, on the rolling prairies of present-day Guadalupe County, Suzanna Dickenson was intercepted by a scouting party from Gonzales. She was safely escorted to Gonzales. As an aside, there is a story that on the west side of Seguin, at the end of Johnson Street in the Joseph Johnson field, there was an old adobe house standing in 1836. In 1938 Mrs. Parrish, of Seguin, stated that as a child she had heard that Mrs. Dickenson had spent a night in the adobe house while enroute to Gonzales.
In the meantime, Sam Houston had been appointed Commander of the Texas Militia, and had gone to Gonzales to organize the first regiment of Texas Volunteers under Austin and Burleson. On March 13, after listening to his scouts and Suzanna Dickenson, he realized Gonzales was going to be attacked.
Sam Houston knew he could not conduct a successful defense against such odds. This began the "Runaway Scrape." Quickly the order went out to evacuate Gonzales. Everything, houses, barns, excess food, fields were to be burned. Livestock were to be abandoned. Nothing was to be left for the Mexican Army to use.
Weather conditions for March were typical Texas. Blustery cold fronts whipped across the plains into South Texas. Freezing, cold rain swelled the major rivers that had to be crossed. Roads became almost impassable, the men oftentimes pushing the wagon wheels while the horses, mules, and oxen strained forward. Colds, pneumonia, related epidemics broke out among the retreating settlers. Many had to sleep unprotected from the elements.
Texas and her government were retreating, closer to Louisiana and aid from the United States. The government was moved to Harrisburg and then to Galveston Island. David Burnet, the Interim President chided Sam Houston for not standing and fighting. The enemy was laughing at him. A few were angered because the retreat was taking so long, but the great majority, including the future founders of Seguin, remained loyal under the most difficult of circumstances.
While the government retreated to Galveston, Sam Houston finally arrived at the Groce Plantation on the Brazos River. For two weeks he organized his men, trained them, let them rest. He knew the day would soon come when he would fight. His men must be rested. This also bought time for the "Runaway Scrape" to continue. And continue it did, on into Nacogdoches. Among the citizens arriving in Nacogdoches was the Seguin family, including Erasmo. Juan Seguin was with the Cavalry on the Groce Plantation.
About April 12, Sam Houston received word on Santa Anna's movements and plans in the Fort Bend, San Felipe area, just thirty miles down stream from his location. It was time to move, to act. His men were rested, ready. Santa Anna's men, all this time in pursuit of the Texas Militia and government, had had no time to rest. They suffered as much from the elements as the settlers. Although out-numbered three men to one, Sam Houston had a distinct advantage. He was rested, he knew where he was going, and he knew what to do. The only questions were when and where.
After crossing the Brazos River, he received the "Twin Sisters." These were two cannon donated by the citizens of Cincinnati. They were immediately placed under the command of Ben McCulloch, future Seguin Texas Ranger.
On April 18, Sam Houston camped near Harrisburg. "Deaf" Smith brought news of Santa Anna's plans. Ultimately the plans were to destroy the Texas government, then Sam Houston. The government had to be protected and time bought until the enemy made a mistake.
Leading his force of a little over nine hundred men, Sam Houston crossed south over Buffalo Bayou and moved east. The small army crossed Vince's Bridge and took possession of Lynch's Ferry, south of Buffalo Bayou, and looking southeast over an open prairie he ordered a halt. It was time to rest, to wait.
On April 20, also heading towards Lynch's Ferry, Santa Anna arrived, not more than three-fourths of a mile southeast of Sam Houston's position. Infuriated that the Texans had control of the ferry he ordered his artillery to bombard the Texans. The afternoon of April 20 saw brief, but sharp, skirmishing between the two forces.
After nightfall, Sam Houston ordered his men to eat, rest, and sleep. Santa Anna, on the other hand, made preparations for attack and kept his men on alert all night. In the morning General Cos arrived with over five hundred men, having traveled all night. The Mexican Army was tired, and in a position that if Vince's Bridge were destroyed they had no route for escape. Sam Houston sensed the time was near.
He dispatched "Deaf" Smith to destroy the bridge, which he successfully did. His men were getting edgy. They were ready for battle. At 3:30 on the afternoon of April 21, at the height of the traditional Mexican siesta, Sam Houston quietly moved his army into position.
Stealthily, with two Infantry Regiments on line to the left, the Cavalry to the right, the Texans moved toward the Mexican sentries. Within two hundred yards of the Mexican positions Ben McCulloch received the signal to fire. Spewing forth horseshoe fragments with shrapnel, the "Twin Sisters" began the Battle of San Jacinto. A young Czech soldier, with three others in the band, played Will You Come To The Bowery, and the Texans surged relentlessly into the Mexican lines.
The carnage that ensued attested to the pent-up frustrations the Texans had held inside. Furious at the Alamo, the cold calculating callousness of Santa Anna, the massacre of Fannin's men at Goliad, the Texans gave no quarter.
The battle was won in 18 minutes but the slaughter continued for two hours. The men literally got out of control from their officers. Only when they were spent, and had gained revenge, would they again come to order.
Nine Texans were killed, thirty-four wounded that afternoon. Sam Houston's right leg was shattered by shot. Six-hundred and thirty enemy were slain, 208 wounded, 730 were captured. Santa Anna and General Cos were among the captured.
Santa Anna was brought to Sam Houston, who was lying on the ground propped against a tree. Santa Anna agreed to surrender. The Revolution was over. Texas had shown America, Mexico, England, she could fight, she could win. Texas was a force to be reckoned with, and now annexation was an inevitability with the United States.
The Revolution was theoretically over. When the public and private Treaties of Velasco were agreed upon, however, the Republic still faced many organizational problems. Basically the independent Nation of Texas was in debt when she became a Republic. Also, she was almost defenseless against the ire of Mexico. Santa Anna had been humiliated at the international level by the overwhelming loss at San Jacinto and at the loss of Texas from Mexico. His wrath knew no boundaries and to be able to attack a weakened opponent would be poetic justice.
Texas was isolated, so reckoned Santa Anna. His day would come. When Santa Anna's day did come, there would be a few more settlers and a few more towns. One of those towns would be Seguin.