the first few years of its newly won independence, Mexico followed Spain’s policy
of strictly limiting Anglo-American settlement in Texas.
However, after adopting the Constitution of 1824, the Mexican government liberalized
the immigration policy, and in 1825, American Green DeWitt received
permission to settle 400 families in central Texas near the confluence of the
San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers.
From the inception of Dewitt’s colony,
the settlers were plagued by attacks from both local Native American tribes like
the Karankawas and the Tonkawas,
and from the more distant and fierce Comanches. The attacks continued unabated
for more than a year, culminating in the burning of Gonzales
which served as the capital of the colony. Seeking to bring an end to the violence,
DeWitt negotiated a peace treaty with the Karankawas and Tonkawas,
and the town was rebuilt, but the Comanches continued to raid the colony on a
1831, the colonists sought help from local Mexican authorities, but with
no troops to spare, the only aid the military was able to offer was the loan of
a small cannon. Though the tiny six-pounder provided little in the way of defense,
other than some loud noise and smoke, it was to play a key role in future events
leading to the independence of Texas.
Meanwhile in Mexico,
the federalists, who believed in the principle of states’ rights, were involved
in an ongoing struggle for control of the government with the centralists, who
desired a strong central government. In 1833, Antonio Lopez de Santa
Anna seized power. Although the Texans supported Santa Anna at first, believing
him to be a federalist, they soon realized that he failed to share their states’
rights views on government. Once in power Santa Anna showed his true colors by
dismissing the Mexican congress, annulling the Constitution of 1824, and declaring
himself dictator for life.
Unrest grew Throughout Mexico
as Santa Anna began to consolidate his power, and in 1835, several Mexican states
revolted. The revolts were brutally suppressed. In one instance, the new dictator
dissolved the legislature of Coahuila y Tejas and rewarded his troops with two
days of rape and pillage in the town of Zacatecas.
In June, the political
unrest spread to Texas when the first skirmish between
Mexican soldiers and Texas settlers took place near Anahuac.
In spite of the rising tensions, however, most settlers like those of De Witt’s
colony remained loyal Mexican citizens, although of the federalist persuasion.
Unfortunately, Santa Anna unwisely chose to ignore this fact and increased tensions
further by sending more troops to Texas under the
command of his brother-in-law, General Martin Perfecto de Cos.
opinion in Texas remained sharply divided. Some settlements,
stirred up by revolutionary hot bloods like William Barrett Travis, supported
the rebellion, while others, including Gonzales,
continued to openly declare their loyalty to Mexico.
Leaders across Texas began to call for a meeting
to determine the true majority view. Although many people worried that Santa Anna
would see such a gathering as a step toward revolution, by late August most settlements
had agreed to send delegates to a formal Consultation scheduled for October 15.
September 10, events began to accelerate when the severe beating of a Gonzales
resident by a Mexican soldier led to widespread public protests. Fearing a general
uprising, Colonel Domingo Ugartechea, the commander of the Mexican garrison
in San Antonio, sent Corporal
De Leon and a small detachment of soldiers to retrieve the cannon under the
pretense that it was needed for the defense of the city.
When De Leon
arrived in Gonzales and requested
the return of the cannon, a poll was taken among the residents by the alcalde,
Andrew Ponton. The citizens overwhelmingly voted against returning the
cannon, and began preparing for trouble by moving their families together, gathering
supplies, and sending riders across the countryside to gather the local militias.
The small cannon was buried in a peach orchard for safekeeping.
Corporal De Leon's return to San Antonio
empty handed, Colonel Ugartechea immediately dispatched Lieutenant Francisco
Casteneda to Gonzales with
more than a hundred troops. Instead of requesting the return of the cannon as
before, Lieutenant Casteneda was ordered to demand its return. At the same time,
he was to avoid a confrontation if at all possible; difficult orders to follow
given the tense situation.
the west bank of the Guadalupe River on the morning of September 30, Casteneda
found the river running high from recent rains and all the rafts and barges removed
to the east bank. Castenada requested to speak with the alcalde, but he was informed
by the armed colonists spread out along the east bank of the river that Ponton
After a frustrating day of shouting across the river accomplished
nothing, Lieutenant Casteneda moved his men to some high ground 300 yards from
the river and set up camp for the night. The following morning, well aware that
the size of the Texas force was steadily increasing, Casteneda moved his camp
seven miles further upriver to a more defensible position near a shallow ford.
This was in keeping with Colonel Ugartechea’s orders to avoid hostile action,
but the Texans failed to interpret the move in that light.
colonists saw Casteneda’s move as a threat, deciding that the Mexican strategy
was to either withdraw from Gonzales
to await reinforcements or attempt to force a crossing of the Guadalupe at another
location. Therefore, they decided to take the initiative and launch their own
attack. Once the decision to attack was made, the colonists spent the day readying
weapons and equipment, which included digging up the small cannon from the peach
orchard and mounting it on a pair of wheels removed from an old cotton wagon.
Since there were no cannon balls, cast iron was cut into hunks of shrapnel small
enough to fit the barrel of the cannon.
the evening of October 1, a force of about 140 Texans, under the command
of newly elected militia Colonel
John Henry Moore, began to cross the Guadalupe at the Gonzales
ferry landing. Once across the river, the fifty men on horseback led the way followed
by the cannon. The Texans who were on foot spread out to the flanks and formed
a small rear guard. Progress was slow due to the men on foot, and a thick fog
enveloped the Guadalupe river valley after midnight, delaying the march even further.
Finally, around 3 AM, the colonists reached the area of the Mexican camp, but
a barking dog warned of their approach. The Mexicans on the perimeter of the camp
began to fire blindly into the fog. None of the Texans were hit, but the loud
noise caused one of their horses to panic and throw its rider. The man suffered
a bloody nose as a result of the fall. After the initial volley, the colonists
made a hasty withdrawal, taking cover in a thick stand of timber near the Guadalupe
River. Lieutenant Casteneda withdrew his men to a nearby bluff.
Between the soupy
fog and the early morning darkness, neither force could determine the exact position
of the other, so both sides waited for sunrise. Fog continued to limit visibility
when the Texans finally advanced from the trees around 6 AM and began firing at
the Mexicans on the bluff. Casteneda immediately retaliated by launching a counterattack
with a small force of cavalry. The Texans again fell back to the trees along the
river, where they fired another volley, wounding one of the Mexican cavalrymen.
Unable to maneuver among the trees, the Mexican horsemen were forced to withdraw.
fog began to lift, Lieutenant Casteneda sent a messenger to Colonel Moore requesting
a meeting. The two commanders met in full view of both forces, with Moore explaining
that the Texans remained faithful to the Constitution of 1824, but could no longer
recognize the dictatorship of Santa Anna. It is believed that Casteneda too was
a federalist who supported the Constitution, but he had no choice but to follow
his orders. Unable to arrive at a compromise, Casteneda and Moore returned to
As Colonel Moore rode in among his men, the Texans fired the small cannon and
defiantly raised a homemade flag with the image of a cannon and a star painted
in black, above the words “Come and Take It.” The Texans followed up with a volley
from their long rifles, and Colonel Moore led a halfhearted charge toward the
bluff. The charge proved unnecessary, however, because Lieutenant Casteneda, following
his orders not to force an engagement, had already begun a withdrawal toward San
1936 Monument of |
the Battle in Cost
photo, April 2000
Although the Battle
of Gonzales was, in reality, nothing more than a minor skirmish, its political
consequences were far reaching. Like the Battle of Lexington, which initiated
the American Revolution, Gonzales
served as the Texas “shot heard round the world.” Texans had at last taken up
arms to defend their rights against Santa Anna’s despotism, and they had no intention
of turning back. Two days after the battle, Stephen
F. Austin, who had long counseled peaceful negotiation, wrote “War is declared
… public opinion has proclaimed it…”
became a magnet for all those Texans bitterly opposed to Santa Anna and his tyrannical
policies, and although the fighting at Gonzales
had long since ended, they continued to gather in support of the revolutionary
banner. On October 11, Stephen
F. Austin, in spite of his lack of formal military training, was unanimously
elected to command the “Army of the People.” The following day he led a march
that would grow to nearly 400 men as it neared San
Antonio, and would eventually culminate in a bloody siege of the old mission
December 1, 2011
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for The Battle of Gonzales "Come and Take It"
|Barr, Alwyn, (1990),
Texans in Revolt: The Battle for San Antonio, 1835, Austin, TX, University
of Texas Press, ISBN 0-292-77042-1, OCLC 20354408Davis,
William C. (2006), Lone Star Rising, College Station, TX, Texas A&M University
Press, ISBN 9781585445325, originally published by New York Free Press Fehrenbach,
T. R. (2000), Lone Star: A History of Texas and Texans, Cambridge: Da Capo
Press, ISBN 0-306-80942-7
Groneman, Bill (1998), Battlefields of Texas, Plano, TX, Republic of Texas
Press, ISBN 979-1-55622-571-0Lack,
Paul D. (1992), The Texas Revolutionary Experience: A Political and Social
History 1835-1836, College Station, TX, Texas A&M Press, ISBN 0-89096-497-1
H. (1994), Remember Goliad! A History of La Bahia, Fred Rider Cotton Popular
History Series, Austin, TX: Texas State Historical Association, ISBN 0-87611-141-X
J.; Todish, Terry; Spring, Ted (1998), Alamo Sourcebook, 1836: A Comprehensive
Guide to the Battle of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution, Austin, TX, Eakin
Press, ISBN 978-1-57168-152-2 |
|Book Hotel Here
by Jeffery Robenalt