Tuesday, February 9, 2010
The Battle of Gonzales was the first military engagement of the Texas Revolution. It was fought near the Mexican Texas town of Gonzales on October 2, 1835 between rebellious Texian settlers and a detachment of Mexican army troops.
Four years previously, Mexican authorities had given the settlers of Gonzales a small cannon to help protect them from frequent Comanche raids. As Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna assumed more dictatorial powers, federalists throughout the country began to protest. As the unrest spread, the commander of all Mexican troops in Texas, Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea felt it unwise to leave the residents of Gonzales a weapon and requested its return.
The citizens of Gonzales realized that the intent of the move was to disarm possible rebels, and so the request was denied.
Ugartechea then sent dragoons under Captain Francisco Castaneda to demand the cannon unconditionally; these men were ordered to use force only if necessary. They arrived near Gonzales on September 29. Colonists asked them to wait until the local alcalde* returned, and then secretly sent messengers to request assistance from nearby communities.
As word of the conflict spread, over 200 armed Texians gathered in Gonzales over the next two days, all determined not to give up the cannon. Two ladies of the town, Cynthia Burns and Evaline DeWitt, painted a flag on cotton cloth, depicting the cannon, the lone star of Texas and a clear challenge to the enemy. The town was fortified, the cannon was mounted on a wagon, and blacksmiths hammered iron scrap and chains into cannonballs.
A STORMBRINGER reader suggests the Gonzales motto may have been inspired by a historical event in Ancient Greece; when Persian King Xerxes, backed by his million man army, demanded that three hundred Spartans and their seven hundred Athenian allies lay down their arms, King Leonides of Sparta reportedly shouted back, "COME AND GET THEM!"
The Mexican troops moved north to ford the river and approach Gonzales. The Texans decided that they had to attack before Mexican reinforcements arrived. They crossed the river at dusk, formed their battle lines at night and surprised the Mexicans at dawn on October 2nd.
The battle that followed was brief; when the Texans opened fire, the Mexicans withdrew, abandoning their supplies. Stephen F. Austin joined the army as commander on October 10th, and the other Texans, under the command of James Collingsworth, took the Goliad the next day. On October 12th, the march on San Antonio began.
Although it was minor as a military engagement, the skirmish marked a clear break between the American colonists and the Mexican government, and is considered to have been the start of the Texas Revolution. News of the skirmish spread throughout the United States, where it was often referred to as the "Lexington of Texas". Many adventurers traveled to Texas to participate in the fighting.
* alcalde was the traditional Spanish municipal magistrate, who had both judicial and administrative functions.