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 Texas : Features : Columns : Lone Star Diary :

The First Shot
May Have Been Second

'Come and Take It'
and the Battle of Velasco

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
Every October, the citizens of Gonzales celebrate "Come and Take It" - to honor those men who, in 1835, fired the first shot for Texas Independence.

Many Texans are aware of the historic incident that occurred near Gonzales on October 2, 1835, when the local citizens refused the demand of Mexican troops to hand over a small cannon. The Mexicans had loaned the weapon to the settlers to help the locals defend themselves against frequent Indian attacks.

The confrontation between the Mexican soldiers and the Texans on that foggy October morning, concluded after a short exchange of gunfire. Some reports said one Mexican soldier was killed and a Texan received a bloody nose; as a battle it didn't amount to much. As an event however, it was of tremendous importance and ignited the war for Texas independence.

Although the battle at Gonzales was a very important one, historically speaking, it wasn't the first time that the Anglo settlers and Mexican soldiers went against one another on the field of battle. In 1832, a battle was fought at a site where the Brazos River meets the Gulf of Mexico, the port city of Velasco; and this fight too, was over a cannon.

Some historians consider the battle at Velasco as the prelude to the Texas Revolution. But, confusingly enough, the Velasco battle was actually fought because of events that were taking place miles away at the little settlement of Anahuac, located on the Trinity River.

According to information found in The Handbook of Texas Online, the Mexican commander at Anahuac was enforcing Mexican law in a way that angered the local Anglo-American citizens. The commander, John (Juan) Bradburn was an American by birth but had long been in service to the Mexican government and military.

He had been sent to build a fort at Anahuac and to begin enforcing a Mexican law passed on April 6, 1830, which was designed to restrict Anglo-American settlements. The purpose of the law was to encourage more natural-born Mexicans and Europeans to settle in Texas. Bradburn considered the law retroactive and tried to take away land that had already been granted to the settlers. Needless to say, this didn't go over very well with the Texans.

To make matters worse, the Virginia-born Bradburn attempted to tax the cargo of ships anchored in the Brazos River and at Galveston Bay. The ship captains on the Brazos refused to pay the tariffs and sailed right past the tax collector at Fort Velasco, often times exchanging gunfire with the soldiers stationed there.

The problems at Anahuac are too many to include here, but government politics played a key role in the situation and Juan Bradburn was highly responsible for most of the controversy. The future commander of the Alamo, William B. Travis, was also involved and he was a constant thorn in the side of Bradburn. Travis continually defied Bradburn's authority and he even went so far as to raise a local militia of Anglos. This was the last straw as far as Bradburn was concerned; he ordered the arrest and imprisonment of Travis.

Now back to the battle of Velasco and the previously mentioned cannon. After Travis was locked up, a cry went out to all the settlements for men and weapons to be sent to Anahuac. You might say that the hotheaded Travis was directly responsible for the battle at Velasco.

Texans, under the command of Henry Smith and John Austin, obtained a cannon from the settlement at Brazoria and loaded it aboard ship for the voyage back to Anahuac. As the vessel attempted to sail past Fort Velasco, it was fired upon by the Mexican garrison and the fight was on. No one knows for sure the exact number of men involved in the battle, but it has been estimated that the Texans numbered from 100 to 150 men, while Mexican troops could have been anywhere from 90 to 200.

The Mexican commander at Fort Velasco, Domingo de Ugartechea, was forced to surrender due to the lack of ammunition and supplies. He surrendered his men under what was called the "honors of war," and the soldiers were put onboard a ship, furnished by the colonists, and allowed to return to Mexico.

When the Mexican authorities realized that the Texans were on the move, in force, to attack Anahuac they released Travis and removed Bradburn from his position as military commander.

So it was that the battles at Gonzales and Velasco were the fuel that fired the flame for Texas independence and the controversy over two cannons provided the spark.

Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary March 18, 2006 Column
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